Chippenham's Reel Deal

There's some good news this week about Chippenham's cinema, the Astoria. It may not look up to much, but it is independent, manages to show a variety of films every week on its 2 screens and is one of just five in Wiltshire. It's also extremely central, so most of the town's population is within a 20 minute walk away. We prefer to go there over the multiplexes in Swindon, though we've also been going to the Palace cinema in Devizes quite a bit lately.

For a number of years there's been rumours of a multiplex opening on one of our outer industrial estates. This would mean most people would have to drive there. It would also bring the relative freedom of our young people to an end, who go there regularly without the need of being taken there by their parents. A retrograde step in our view.

Three weeks ago the adjacent Bingo Hall closed at short notice and it now appears the cinema owners have plans to convert it back to show films again - on a further 3 screens. Instead of the reel to reel films shown upstairs, these will be showing digital ones, something NAH's been enthusing about ever since he went to a seminar at the Watershed in Bristol a few months ago*.

Both NAH and I are excited at the prospect, especially as there'll no longer be the sound of the bingo caller downstairs during a film's quieter moments. The facade will also be getting a facelift: I wonder if this will also mean the graffiti art on the side of the cinema will go. The one on the bus shelter** outside has gone already.

This is the latest in my occasional series on Changing Chippenham. Click here for my previous article - on the demise of Woolworths on the High Street.

* = he's the technician for our local film club in Corsham, so got invited there to see what cinema's going to be like in the future.

** = so has Batman at the station as Network Rail repaired and repainted the footbridge earlier this year.


  1. You know how some people dream of opening a teashop? Well, I dream of opening a cinema. It would be decorated in black and gold art-nouveau designs and have tea-shop in it with waitresses wearing black dresses and white head-dresses.

    It would show all the films I like.

    We went to a mulitplex a few weeks ago and the bottom half of the picture ran along the top and the top on the bottom so people's feet were where their heads should be. And because there was no projectionist, it chuntered along like that for a while.

    I hope digital films can't do that!

    I hope your cinema shows all the films you like. (Sounds like a Celtic blessing!)


  2. I love independent cinema's.

    I used to be a regular patron of The Electirc Cinema in Brimingham when I lived there. I used to love the fact that you could get a slice of home made cake to scoff during the movie :o)

    (Those Swindon multiplexes are hell on earth!)


  3. We have a film club in Westbury that works well in the Town Hall. It does look like it could do with a face-lift. The art deco facade of the old cinema in Wells is fabulous.

  4. Lucy - we very nearly bought the cinema in Tywyn a couple of years ago. You can read about it here. I now wonder if the owner wanted to sell because of the costs of going digital - it's very expensive to convert from reel to reel. I also wonder if we would have shown all the films we wanted to see, rather than what the public wants! We can influence the programme of Film @ the Pound somewhat, as long as our suggestions are independent/ foreign language/ art house.

    RO - I'm from Birmingham! The Little Cinema in Bath does cake at its over 50s screenings. There's a brilliant independent cinema in Sidmouth which has little tables between the posh seats upstairs, so you can take your drinks and nibbles (including cake) with you for the movie. The cinema owner in Tywyn had a fund of stories: he makes a tidy profit from popcorn sales and so wants to sell as much as possible. However, lots of the audience are hell bent on smuggling in food, including full take away curries!

    Hermes - there's quite a few film clubs springing up in Wiltshire towns and villages. NAH will be helping out with the sound at Hullavington village hall at some point. There's also Moviola which takes films around some of the villages.

  5. VP,

    Frome cinema has a bar and a friendly atmosphere and seems to be doing okay. In Ambleside there is a very good cinema where you can have a meal (and a good one too) and a film at a reasonable cost. They also used to sell the best Italian icecream I have ever had. It is Moviola they use here in Westbury. Thanks.

  6. Phillip - isn't great that independent cinema's alive and kicking at least in some parts of the UK? As RO says, the multiplexes are hell, so souless. I thought it might be Moviola which came down your way. NAH's chuntering about it as he had the idea to do something like that about 5 years ago, but didn't do anything about it at the time.

    I've just found Moviola's website. They operate across 5 counties and call themselves the south-west's rural multiplex as they have 86 'screens'. The website shows some of them - it's worth checking it out just for that :)

  7. Lucy - back to you because I've just remembered something. I arrange a GNO cinema trip each month and we go to a multiplex in Bristol. A couple of months ago there was a similar problem - twice. I went out to find someone to do something about it and was very surprised to find all the screens are run remotely with no projectionist installed just for our movie. If it happens agian, complain straight away and get them to restart the film! At the cinema in Devizes (also art deco) you're quite likely to find yourself chatting to the projectionist before the film starts. Unlike NAH I'm not so enthused about going digital. I actually like seeing the black dots in the top right hand corner of the screen and knowing that means the reel's changing over at that point. In Tywyn there's just 1 enormous reel (we spent ages in the projection room, very exciting), so the owner has to splice all the films, adverts and movie previews together onto 1 reel. Quite often though the films he gets are in the wrong cases, so there's a danger of showing the film completely in the wrong order! It also means that the total programme time (film + adverts etc.) can be no longer than 3 hours, because that's the maximum his reel can take. It means he wouldn't be able to show a film like Ghandi for instance as this alsone is over 3 hours! Quite a few of the movie clubs springing up use DVDs, so they have problems with long films too as there's a limited capacity on a DVD. I don't know whether they just take the shorter films, or whether someone just swaps the DVDs over during the proceedings. We haven't ahd that problem at Film @ the Pound yet, though sometimes one of the film suppliers forgets only DVDs can be shown and sends massive cases of film instead!

    As you can see, cinema's one of my enthusiasms :D

  8. Wiltshire readers might also like to take a look at Rural Arts Wiltshire's website. This operates in a similar way to Moviola, but brings small theatre and performance events into village and towns across Wiltshire instead.

  9. I want to go to Lucy's movie house! This is a very happy story, VP. I am so glad you are thinking about the young people, who need a place to congregate and have some time together without being hauled around in a car by parents. I could go on about the movies of my youth, make that movie houses, all gone now but alive in memory. This is such good news. Hope the multiplex never gets built in your area.

  10. Frances - so do I! Whilst our local cinema might not be the plushest of places, I love it because it's local, different and we don't have to drive at last 20 miles to go and see a film. The times suit us better too and it's easier to go on the spur of the moment.


Post a Comment

I love hearing from you and welcome thoughtful conversations :)

Comments aiming to link back and give credence to commercial websites will be composted!

Your essential reads

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: 'Just Add Cream'

Salad Days: Mastering Lettuce

Jack Go To Bed At Noon

Weekend Wandering: A new sculpture trail

VP's VIPs: Charles Dowding

Wildflower Wednesday: Alpengarten

Dessert Apple Jelly: Seasonal Recipe

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: The Fibonacci effect

Wildflower Wednesday: A New Year Plant Hunt

Weekend Wandering: Wildflowers