Echoes of the past in new cinema

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PETER Hallinan will be following his great grandfather’s footsteps when Stanton Village Cinema has its first show next Friday.

Peter and his team of 14 volunteers plan to show a film a month in Stanton Village Hall and if it takes off, the hall may be fitted with blackout blinds to allow summer film shows. The first film, starting at 7.30pm next Friday is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Judy Dench and Bill Nighy, followed by Warhorse on November 9 and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen on December 7.

Peter’s great grandfather, Thomas Thompson, also started showing films in a hired hall at the beginning of the 20th century in Middlesborough.

“He’s always been a family hero to me,” Peter said. “This is my nearest equivalent to what my great grandfather did.

“He was a shipping clerk. He had six children and was in his 40s when he decided to give up his job and start a cinema.”

Within two years, Thomas had taken over a 3,000-seat theatre – about twice the size of Leicester Square Odeon. He went on to be one of the country’s top 10 cinema owners and made some silent films.

Like his forebear, Peter changed career. After being a lawyer for 20 years, he retrained in film preservation and his dissertation for his masters degree was on Thomas, though he has not discovered how his first shows were financed.

Today, village cinemas are helped by the Suffolk Digital Cinema Network which provides digital projection equipment, so communities do not have to buy it.

But it is about more than a film, Peter said: “It’s a community event. We have tables and a bar so people can socialise during the intermission.”

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