It’s fair to say that the UK’s cinema industry has faced a number of challenges in recent years, with technological advances providing more competition than ever before.
But reports of the death of visits to the cinema have been greatly exaggerated, with two new venues opening in Manchester alone in 2015.
Alongside Home, the new setting for the Cornerhouse, The Savoy in Heaton Moor also opened its doors.
The Savoy traces its history back almost 100 years. It opened its doors in 1923 and was then renovated in 1971.
But this was the last work done on the venue and, in late 2014, it shut its doors.
But, although many old cinemas find themselves being redeveloped or demolished after their closure, The Savoy found itself with a new lease of life.
It was taken over by a family who are passionate about saving cinemas and have already restored two – The Ritz in Belper and The Regal in Melton Mowbray – and it reopened in October after a £400,000 refurbishment.
— Savoy Cinema HM (@savoyheatonmoor) February 16, 2016
Looking back to the glory days of cinema, The Savoy is a luxurious and comfortable venue with the focus on much more than just what’s showing on the screen.
Sophie Smith, one of the directors of the cinema, says the venue is all about the experience.
“It’s not just about seeing a film; it’s about enjoying it in a nice atmosphere. It’s a step back in time.”
But although it may have a 1930s style décor, the facilities are all modern. There’s a 4K projector and 7.1 surround sound in the screen – alongside a well-stocked drinks and snack bar.
It has one screen with 180 seats – a significant reduction on the 400 it previously had – which ensures each seat has good viewing angles and that there’s enough legroom.
Unlike other cinemas, guests aren’t required to stand up if someone on their row wants to move.
“We wanted to make sure it’s a nice night out but keep the old character,” Sophie says.
The schedule features new releases – albeit, a few weeks after release day – alongside classic films and satellite events such as concerts and screenings of live productions from the National Theatre and Royal Opera House.
So, what’s a typical day for the owners?
“Each day varies but we generally work to a monthly cycle,” says Sophie. “One day we could be watching trailers to programme for upcoming months as we test all films. Some days we have two screenings, others we have three – for example, we have our Silver Screen on a Wednesday afternoon.”
Although the team behind the Savoy aren’t new to the industry their first Manchester venue brought new tests.
“The biggest challenge has mainly been around the size – it’s bigger than the others so it’s the volume of seats.”
With only one screen, the team also have to think carefully about which films to show.
“We get them a few weeks after release. The only exception so far was Star Wars, but there are certain conditions to show it on opening day – for example, we had to screen it three times a day.
“We show such a variety and having them shortly after release means we can be cheaper and keep costs down of both tickets and snacks. We sell popcorn for £2 and fizzy drinks for £1.50 but if we had films on the day they came out, it’d need to have a bigger mark-up.”
It’s fair to say it’s been a success. Despite only having a single screen, it’s welcomed more than 40,000 visitors since October.
“It’s been far more popular that we imagined,” Sophie adds.
The Savoy Cinema, 105 Heaton Moor Road, SK4 4HY – savoycinemaheaton.com.