Published: 15:52, 28 May 2021
| Updated: 16:19, 28 May 2021
Thousands of customers are expected to head to a town's new complex this weekend.
The Light, part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne multi-million pound regeneration project, flung open their doors today.
Based on the town's new Bourne Place leisure quarter next to the Forum shopping centre, it has an eight-screen cinema, nine-lane bowling alley, retro arcade, diner and three bars.
Ahead of their first film flicking onto the main screen - children's favourite Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway - co-founder Keith Pullinger said The Light's 40-strong staff team of chefs, baristas, bartenders and ushers to bowling lane servers were looking forward to welcoming customers.
"We are very excited. I think we are going to have a good weekend," he said.
"Most of the bowling slots are filling out.
"I would say more than 500 people have booked tickets for the cinema. So I should imagine we will have up to 600 or 700 coming in today in total.
"Over the weekend, I think we will have more than 2,500 people."
The opening of The Light follows the reopening of the town's other cinema, the privately-owned New Century.
Among the first in the queue were 47-year-old Gerard Norton, who is unemployed, and 29-year-old Ryan Colegate who says he is a volunteer at The New House Youth Centre on Chalkwell Road. Both are from Sittingbourne.
"The town needs a new cinema," said Mr Norton. "I know we have got one already but I feel having another in the town will be good."
Mr Colegate said: "It is just more entertainment for the kids and for us, really.
"It is something else for us to do."
Mr Pullinger believes The Light will offer something new to the town.
He said: "This is a full leisure experience. We will be having organised events on a regular basis as well.
"I think the town needs more going on. Hopefully, this will be a place people come to enjoy themselves."
On Thursday, mayor of Swale, Cllr Paul Stephen (Swale Independents), cut the ribbon at the formal soft opening of the event.
He was joined by Cllr Sarah Stephen (Swale Independents) and Cllr Monique Bonney (Ind).
Cllr Bonney, cabinet member for property and economy at the council, said: “I'm delighted to have a really good quality scheme opening in the town.
"The last year hasn’t been easy for anyone, but I'm confident people will think it was worth the wait and will enjoy it for years to come.”
Mr Pullinger praised the council.
"With the council, the relationship has been fantastic throughout," he said. "So it is a big thanks to Swale council from us."
Also attending today were policeman Daniel Heal, 34, and 31-year-old wife Rebecca who is a canine hydrotherapist. They took their three-year-old daughter Olivia, with the family having recently moved to Sittingbourne from Larkfield.
He said: "It has been a while since we were able to go into the cinema, so it will be nice for the little one.
"It will be the first time she has been able to go in and experience it. We are looking forward to it.
"It looks really good in there from what I have seen. There is bowling in there as well.
"So it will be really good because it will allow people to get out and socialise in there, and enjoy themselves."
Rosalyn Dobell, 56, who lives in Highsted Valley, took her seven-year-old grandson Bobby Watts.
"I think it is a good idea," she said.
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, with Rosalyn and Bobby having booked the standard seats.
Bobby added: "The arcade is probably going to keep everyone entertained."
Faced with a late dash to get tickets was Martin Clark, 34, who lives on Northwood Drive, Sittingbourne, and runs Rodmersham Squash Club. He had taken his children seven-year-old Cooper and Thea, four, with him.
"It is something for the younger generation in Sittingbourne," he said. "It looks good."
Angela Hughes, 58, of Minster on Sea on the Isle of Sheppey, took her three-year-old grand-daughter Summer and she said her first experience at the cinema was a positive one.
"It is fantastic, it is all nicely laid out," she said.
"We had the cheapest seats but they were still very good and very comfortable."
The Sittingbourne venue is The Light’s 11th site.
Food on offer 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 they 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.