Big screen stars – Wetherby's little cinema is kept alive by a determined team of volunteers

PUBLISHED: 08:33 20 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:34 20 February 2013

Wetherby Cinema on Crossley Street

Wetherby Cinema on Crossley Street

Wetherby's charming little cinema is kept alive by a determined team of volunteers, as <br/><br/>Paul Mackenzie reports<br/><br/>Photographs by John Cocks

Big screen stars

Wetherbys charming little cinema is kept alive by a determined
team of volunteers, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Photographs by John Cocks

The story of Wetherbys cinema has had as many ups, downs, twists and turns as the plot of any of the films it has shown in its long history.
It is a tale of success, loss and (because all good stories have a happy ending) ultimate joy. And whats more, it comes with a nice cup of tea, or an ice cream, if you prefer, brought to you whenever you fancy it.
This is the cosy way to go to the cinema the one-screen picture house on Crossley Street has changed very little since it first opened its doors in 1915.
These days the cast is headed by Ray Trewitt and Roger Spence, two volunteers who devote themselves to keeping the cinema open and screening films every night of the week, often to a full house.
Theres something about this place that people get a great deal of pleasure from, Ray said. We sometimes have to turn people away, they wait in the street outside to make sure they get a good seat. Of course, this being Yorkshire, it helps that it only costs 5 to see a film.
Ray and Roger who are both such film devotees that they have created mini-cinemas at their homes have run Wetherbys Cinema for three years since Bob Preedy stepped aside.
Bob, a television continuity announcer and radio presenter, had re-opened the building as a cinema after it had been used as a bingo hall and had stood empty for almost 12 years.
It was just an empty shell when Bob took over, said Ray a 66-year-old softly spoken Scot who moved to Yorkshire 30 years ago. There were no seats, no screen, no projector just four bare walls.
We got involved to help Bob out. He used to run the place on his own. Hed sell the tickets, sell the sweets and run the projector. Now theres us two, our wives and one other volunteer.
We do teas, coffees and hot chocolate and if people want an ice cream half way through we will bring it to them during the film.
The cinema opened in 1915 as the Ruby and at that time 260 people could cram in to the auditorium to see the latest silent movies. When the talkies came along the building had to be extended so they could house the speaker equipment. It later became the Rodney, named after the son of a director of the Star Cinema group who bought the Wetherby venue and added it to their chain of cinemas. The cinema marked its 95th anniversary this year and it can now seat 135 people in comfy, tipping seats.
Much of the dcor is original but the seats are modern, said Roger. We do sometimes get people asking us why
we didnt put double seats in on the back row and these are people with zimmer frames!
Roger, who is now 72, worked at the Odeon in Leeds throughout the 1960s and he added: Cinema is in our blood. We are both smitten with it. I have been since I was a boy. I had a toy projector when I was eight.
We show one or two films a week now they are mostly current releases but we also have a film club where we show films that have now passed out
of circulation.
The future depends on how digital goes and how quickly that technology takes hold. The projector here is 40 years old, eventually it will go digital but whatever happens film will never die. Well both just keep plodding on as along as we can. We certainly have no lack of enthusiasm.

Contact the cinema on 01937 580544 or visit to check this months screenings.

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