Published: 00:00, 26 July 2015
While a trip to the multiplex to see the latest blockbuster has never been more popular, the Kino cinema company is thriving by offering audiences a different experience.
An independent chain which started in Kent is spreading its wings.
Step into the new Kino cinema and you could be forgiven for thinking that you have entered a stylish house set for a feature in a design magazine.
It is about as far removed from a multiplex as you could imagine. There are lots of muted green tones, comfortable armchairs and wood. The words plush, contemporary and cool come to mind.
Magazines and newspapers are dotted on tables. There are even books to leaf through, a nod to the Victorian building’s previous life as Rye Library. There is a mezzanine floor with an elevated space to sit down and tables and chairs outside.
In fact, you could happily while away a couple of hours here without actually seeing a film, drinking coffee or a glass of wine and having a sandwich or slice of cake. And if visitors just want to sit and just enjoy the ambience, that’s fine by the cinema.
These contemporary design features and informality are hallmarks of the Kino chain, which started out in Hawkhurst and six months ago opened its new venue in the medieval town of Rye, just over five miles from the Kent border.
Kino came to the Sussex town on the back of a spirited community-led campaign to transform the site of the old library that was – perhaps inevitably these days – earmarked for a housing development.
A group was set up to bring cinema back to the town – something Rye had lost some 40 years ago when the Regent closed – and against the odds succeeded. The £1.5m conversion has created a stunning building, sympathetically incorporating both the old and the new.
The aim, says Kino managing director Matt Breckon, is to create a friendly, attractive and comfortable venue.
Call it boutique cinema, if you like but what the Kino is not is an art house cinema.
“When people think of independent cinema they often think of art house and foreign language films,” adds Matt.
“That is an important part of our programme but we are a venue for everybody. We show mainstream, blockbuster films and kids’ films. Film tastes are very diverse. People who watch blockbuster films also like foreign language films so there is not a line you can cut through.”
Rye was chosen because of the site’s potential. The building did present certain building challenges but it was the space and location that won Kino over.
The cinema was designed from scratch, giving the company virtually a clean slate to come up with its plan.
As to whether the new venue has harmed Kino’s original cinema at Hawkhurst, there is no evidence that it has sucked away visitors across the Kent border.
“When we opened Rye, we thought they would know Kino from Hawkhurst. But the vast majority haven’t. It means we are much more of a start-up and a lot of work is going on to get the message out to people who do live in the nearby towns and villages.”
It helps that Rye is a tourist hotspot and Kino hopes the summer will see audiences grow as visitors descend.
“Our whole message is about experiencing cinema in a different way. What we hear from customers is that a lot haven’t been to the cinema for many years because the product hasn’t existed that meets their quality.”
Ticket prices vary but start at £4.75 and there are screenings throughout the day starting at 10am.
Kino Rye is in Lion Street – opposite the town hall and near St Mary’s Church. For more details call 01797 226293 or go to www.kinodigital.co.uk.
Kino Hawkhurst is at Victoria Hall in Rye Road. For more details call 01580 754321 or go to the website.