Published: 14:21, 26 May 2021
| Updated: 08:58, 27 May 2021
Covid has been bad for cinemas but that hasn't stopped a brand new one from opening.
The Light, part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne multi-million pound regeneration project, will welcome customers from 10am this Friday. (May 28)
Inside the new cinema
The town centre complex, which has taken five years to finish, boasts an eight-screen cinema, nine-lane bowling alley, retro arcade, diner and three bars.
There are 675 cinema seats ranging from 175 in Screen 1 to intimate 35-seat "studio" screens. They come in three types, standard, full-length loungers and plush electric recliners.
The first film which flickers onto the main screen at 10.30am will be children's favourite Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway just in time for the school half-term holiday.
Mil Gjoni, The Light’s senior business manager, said: “It’s been such an exciting journey to get here. To see it coming all together is absolutely tremendous. I am really excited to open the doors. I can’t wait for people to come in and enjoy it.”
He added: “It’s in a fantastic location, right by the High Street and the train station. It has really good transport links. I think people will be very happy with it.”
Work on the venue, which dominates the town's new Bourne Place leisure quarter next to the Forum shopping centre, began in November 2018. It shares the site, a former car park, with a new Travelodge hotel.
The Light has recruited a crew of 40 staff, ranging from chefs, baristas, bartenders and ushers to bowling lane servers.
“They are a great team and the majority are local," said Mr Gjoni.”
Co-founder Keith Pullinger said he was also looking forward to the opening. He said: "It’s been five years since we started to get involved in this project. We began fitting out in January last year but, obviously, we were held back because of Covid."
He admitted launching during a pandemic had been "really difficult."
"We have been closed for 14 months. We opened for a short time in August but no new films were being released. Now there is a really good slate of films. We opened some of our other sites last week and the public reaction has been amazing.
“We are excited about the year ahead as we have some great films to show. And people are really keen to come back to spend time with their friends and family. We are in a positive mind about the future.”
The Sittingbourne venue is The Light’s 11th site.
Mr Pullinger added: “It’s a really important project for the town and the borough.
“Tickets went on sale last week and sales are really strong. We are encouraging people to book online. We are going to be busy. We know that and are excited about it.”
Tickets for standard seats and the lounger beds cost £7.99. The electric recliners are £9.99. A 40-minute bowling session for six costs £24.99, or £29.99 for an hour.
Food includes pizzas, burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, popcorn and nachos.
The Spirit of Sittingbourne was given the green light by Swale council in 2017 but it has not all been plain sailing. The Sentado Lounge restaurant opened in October but had to close almost immediately because of the coronavirus lockdown.
National chains Creams and Pizza Express pulled out in February, leaving two empty units. Nando’s is expected to open in the autumn.
The opening of The Light follows the reopening of the town's other cinema, the privately owned New Century.