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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Community buyout mooted to stop Cumbrian cinema closing

Campaigners fighting to save Penrith’s closure-threatened cinema believe a community buyout is a possibility.

Penrith cinema march photo
Campaign organiser Dawn Coates

Related: Cumbrian cinema to shut after landlords come up with new use for building

About 500 protesters took to the streets of the town on Saturday afternoon shouting “Save our cinema” and “Shame on you” after owners Graves (Cumberland) Ltd announced it was closing the Lonsdale/Alhambra cinema on March 3.

The cinema itself is profitable but the Opera bingo hall next door is not.

More than 6,000 people in a week signed a petition to keep the cinema on Middlegate open.

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, said he would like to see a community buy-out.He said: “With all this energy we need to get all these hundreds of people together, and I would like to see a community buyout.

“This is a profitable enterprise and a business that really matters to people.

“Make the council say it can only be a cinema and not a pub or anything else, get people to contribute and we can run it as a community asset and make some profitable return.”

Police closed the road for a time as the protest, led by Dawn Coates, marched from the cinema building to outside The George Hotel.

Before the protest cars and buses honked their horns in support.

Dawn said: “We need to rally more support.

“We need to ask Graves to give us more time to find an alternative venue in Penrith, to form an action plan.

“If they don’t this cinema will close in seven weeks time and will be showing Withnail and I as its final film.”

Campaigners want more time to find an alternative cinema venue in the town. They would also like to have the opportunity to run the bingo hall as a youth or arts centre and keep the two-screen cinema open.

They are asking people to write to Mr Stewart, their local Eden District councillor, as well as Graves (Cumberland) Ltd and pub chain Wetherspoons – rumoured to be interested in the building.

Mum Dawn Stobbart, one of the protest organisers, said: “The people of Penrith can organise and run this as a community cinema.”

Many of the protesters were dressed as film characters including Darth Vader, the Blues Brothers, Batman and Borat.

They jingled tambourines and banged drums.

Some turned up with dogs and one was on inline skates.

Some banners read: “From 3 to 93 the cinema stays. Not another pub. No way” and “I’m saving the cinema for my grandchildren.”

Campaigners were due to hold another meeting at 4pm today.

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