Indie cinema focus: Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay

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A salute to another quality British independent cinema – this time in Colwyn Bay.
Dan Cooper (@DCVertigo)

125 years is a long time for an entertainment venue to serve its local community… and yet, that’s what Theatr Colwyn has been doing in one form or another, day in, day out, pretty much since cinema as a medium was only knee-high to a badger. Doubling as both a cinema, a theatre and sometimes both throughout its long history, Theatr Colwyn is owned and funded by the county and local councils respectively, and undertakes its remit to screen a varied and inclusive diet of cinema very seriously indeed.

Luckily for residents of Colwyn, however, not too much else about the cinema seems to take itself seriously. Cinema and theatre manager Phil Batty has spent his entire career in entertainment, starting out as a ventriloquist and stage performer before running the show at Colwyn, booking in both stage acts and a diverse assortment of films for patrons to enjoy. And that’s not all that there is to delight in: perhaps the residual ambience of live performance is contagious because Phil himself seems to be a born entertainer, and visitors can be sure that a laugh or a gag is never too far away. Compare that jovial theatricality with the dreary, blank-eyed stares one can encounter at a local multiplex, and there’s no doubt that there’s something eminently human waiting beyond the threshold of Theatr Colwyn.

That sense of humour clearly extends to the films on offer too: when the cinema reopened in 2000 after closing as a theatre due to multiple leaks, the first film they screened post-cinema conversion was The Perfect Storm. There’s some heavyweight cinematic support behind the cinema too: Theatr Colwyn’s patrons include Monty Python member and film director Terry Jones, along with Celyn Jones, actor and writer of upcoming Gerard Butler thriller The Lighthouse.

Like most small independent cinemas, Theatr Colwyn has to contend with the might of a local multiplex and faces difficult screening choices as a single-screen cinema, where choosing to screen a seat-filling first-run film can close off other screening options for prohibitive chunks of time. As such, it’s about balance… and the building itself certainly seems to approve; since the venue’s re-conversion into a cinema almost two decades ago, ghost sightings and poltergeist-related tomfoolery have markedly reduced. In 2012, the cinema converted to digital, showing Skyfall in 4K to launch its digital era, hastened by the sudden lack of availability of film prints. Since the latest refurbishment, attendance is up, with the popular National Theatre Live performances bridging the gap nicely between Theatr Colwyn’s cinema and theatre attendees.

So should you ever find yourself facing the Irish Sea with the towering, wooded Pwllycrochan hills at your back, you can surely relax; however far from home you may be, simply seek out the ringing laughter and bright lights of Theatr Colwyn, where a warm Welsh welcome awaits you.

Address: Theatr Colwyn, Abergele Road, Colwyn Bay, LL29 7RU


Twitter: @TheatrColwyn

Facebook: @theatr.colwyn

First ever screening: The Naughty Little Princess (1908), Post-refurb: Skyfall (2012)

Myths & Legends: More than a few hauntings. A tale of trailing footsteps in the dark was particularly bone-chilling.

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