Published: 06:00, 25 March 2021
| Updated: 07:47, 25 March 2021
The boss behind Sittingbourne’s new cinema and bowling alley says it is hoping to welcome customers before June.
Keith Pullinger, founder and deputy chairman of The Light Cinema, is opening a branch on the new Bourne Place leisure quarter as part of the town’s multi-million pound regeneration.
After a “frustrating” year, which has seen the opening delayed multiple times, the cinema boss confirmed it will be ready when retail and leisure reopens later this year.
He said: “We’re all fitted out and ready to go in terms of the cinema, bowling alley and diner, now it’s just about stocking up.
“It’ been a frustrating year for us as we’ve had no income for 12 months really and no cinema has been open since Boxing Day.
“It’s been a very unusual project, but despite this our excitement has never waived and we think this is a really good opportunity in the town and wider area and I think excitement is building.
“We’ve stuck with the project and have had great support from the council, who are our landlords, who have been understanding to all our problems and really believe in the project.”
Mr Pullinger explained at one point last year workers were pulled off site and had to close down.
When asked whether he thought a year of lockdown and watching films indoors would affect footfall he wasn’t too concerned.
He said: “There’s two ways of looking at it, people might want to carry on watching films at home but we have a good dialogue with our customers and know people are excited about going back out once they’re more comfortable about the environment and there will be a demand of people wanting to enjoy themselves.
“Nobody knows what they’ll be doing for holidays this year so maybe coming to our new cinema and experience will be a choice for them.
“We’re sure people will be excited about it when it opens.”
'We’re expecting Black Widow, Peter Rabbit, the Fast and Furious film, Top Gun and James Bond... finally.'
After planning to open in March last year the Light Cinema founder admitted it had been a “financially painful” year and considered pulling the plug on the project.
“We’ve had 12 months without any trade and that’s been difficult,” Mr Pullinger said.
“There were moments where our business was very difficult to plan through because of the uncertainty around how long Covid was going to go on for, but the opening has been helped with Hollywood reopening and a good slate of films coming.
“We’re expecting Black Widow, Peter Rabbit, the Fast and Furious film, Top Gun and James Bond... finally.
Mr Pullinger said it won’t be easy if Covid safety restrictions come back after opening, although he expects they will be in place until June, but the cinema will be ready to implement them.
Asked about if being prevented from opening by the government should there be a rise in cases again, he said: “We’ve had a year of it, we know what it feels like.
"We’re organised now and if that happens there’s not a situation where we won’t open. We absolutely will open.
“It will be hard for cinemas going forward as they need to keep people interested, but just like in retail Covid hasn’t created new problems it’s just accelerated the previous ones.”
The cinema, bowling alley and diner will join the 63-bed Travelodge hotel, new Sentado Lounge and Nando’s and would have been next to eateries Creams and Pizza Express had they not pulled out of the project
of the projectlast month.
The nine bowling lanes will cater for up to 55 people at one time with enough seating for another 60 people.
Indoor cinemas are expected to reopen on May 17, as phase three of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. Face masks for film lovers might still be a requirement.