The Station is ten years old this year. A key part of its success has been the Station Cinema which opened at the same time as the community venue. Here, cinema operator Rob Younger looks back at the last decade.
The Station Cinema has been running ten years now. What were your hopes and aims for the cinema when it first opened and have you achieved what you set out to do?
Opening the cinema was a gamble. I quit my job as head of technical operations with the Picturehouse group in order to do it, but I felt sure that it would be a success. I just hoped that we would be able to create something a little different within this lovely and unique building, whilst also making enough of a profit to be able to afford to live! The first year of trading was amazing and although we didn’t get everything right, we soon learned! We have certainly exceeded all my expectations over the last ten years. There have been many changes, not least the change from 35mm film to digital projection in 2011, the total refurbishment of screen two in 2012 and the creation of our intimate screen three in 2014.
Which film has been the most popular over the last ten years?
Mamma Mia which was on for nearly six months, The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Harry Potter 5, 6, 7a & 7b, and Slumdog Millionaire. All these films ran for many weeks; way beyond the original contracted booking of two weeks. The queues for Mamma Mia were notorious – people would queue beyond the main door and snake around the front of the building. We would have to walk down the queue on a nightly basis telling people that they wouldn’t get in as we were sold out.
And which has been the biggest flop?
I don’t want to get into that! The vast majority of our screenings have been very well received, every now and then we book something that doesn’t quite gel with the audience, but that’s life!
Have any films been a surprise success that you weren’t expecting?
Mamma Mia or Kings Speech. We never thought either would be as huge as they were.
How have the public’s cinema habits changed over the last decade?
They haven’t really changed to be honest. As ever, people will come out to see a good film, especially if its well-reviewed.
What are the main challenges for independent cinemas and how will you be tackling them?
Coming up with a different offer to the multiplexes. Choosing films carefully, interacting with the audience and listening to their feedback. With just a few screens, we have to try to please as many people as possible, but with a smaller choice. We still have to offer the same standards of picture, sound and comfort, but with that little bit more! We know many of our customers by name and can pretty much guess which of the regulars will attend a given film.
What are your plans for the future for the cinema?
We have recently had the successful French Film Festival; we have hosted a festival of some kind for the last few years. At Christmas, we traditionally screen It’s a Wonderful Life and will be doing again this year. We had four screenings of Brief Encounter, completely free, as part of our tenth birthday celebrations – we opened in November 2007.
Tell us about the membership scheme.
The membership scheme has been a terrific success, we currently have around 900 members, all enjoying cheaper tickets and concessions, no booking fees and early notification of events.
Any last words?
On the whole, the Station Cinema is a pleasure to operate. The Station building is a fantastic venue to work in, with a lovely ambience and I am proud to be a big part of that. Over the years we have had some terrific staff and a lovely, loyal customer base. Our longest serving staff member is our current general manager; Mike Slater, who started with us as an attendant back in 2007 and progressed to the position that he currently holds.