Final reel for 'oldest' Colwyn Bay cinema 35mm projector

By Chris Dearden
BBC Wales News

Media caption,
Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay is one of the last places in Wales to "retire" its traditional 35mm film screenings.

One of Britain's oldest working cinemas is finally catching up with the 21st Century and going digital.

Theatr Colwyn in Colwyn Bay is one of the last places in Wales to "retire" its traditional 35mm flim screenings.

The film reels have been in use at the theatre since January 1909, staking its claim to be the oldest working cinema in the UK.

On Thursday, out goes the 35mm and in comes a digital screening of the latest James Bond movie Skyfall.

Managers say they been forced to make the change as some distributors no longer release films using the old format, and audiences have begun to expect the higher quality picture which comes from newer technology.

The new digital projector and sound system has been paid for by grants from the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh government.

Theatre staff say it is now one of the most technically advanced cinemas in the country, and should help secure the future of the venue for years to come.

But theatre manager, Phil Batty, said there was a nostalgic moment as the old projector was taken away.

"Everything must progress, but it's still sad. I remember when we put that projector in - six of us had to carry it up the stairs.

"But distributors are slowly stopping the production of new films on 35mm, so we have to move with the times.

"What we have now is cutting edge technology - the best projectors available today.

"We saw some of the early tests, and the picture quality is stunning.

"The colours and the sound are spectacular, and it's great to have this here in Colwyn Bay."

Magic Lantern

Sarah Ecob, theatres manager at Conwy council, added: "The new equipment will enable us to present the latest films, and to improve access for people with sight or hearing disabilities."

One of the projectionists, John Carroll, started working in cinemas when he was 14 years old. He says the new projector is very different from the old.

Media caption,
Projectionist John Carroll bids farewell to Theatr Colwyn's 35mm projector

"It's going to be a lot more automated - we won't be sticking reels of film together like we used to.

"But the art of the projectionist is still there.

"We still have the responsibility to make sure the sound and picture quality are right, and that everything goes smoothly."

With the launch of the new tech cinema on Thursday, the audience is being invited to enter the spirit of the film being screen and to go dressed in a James Bond theme.

But Theatr Colwyn is not the only venue in Wales to be going digital this week.

The Magic Lantern cinema in Tywyn, Gwynedd, is also installing a digital projector, and shows its first film with the new technology on Saturday.

Co-owner Geoff Hill said: "It will give us a much bigger choice of films to show, and help us develop the venue for the future.

"We're particularly pleased that local people have come forward with donations to supplement two very generous grants which have paid for the new digital projector."

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