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Ritz cinema reopening 'could unite a whole community' in Lincoln

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: January 13, 2012

  • Pete Genders in the old bar

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Off the Bench, a volunteer organisation, has announced plans to re-open The Ritz cinema in Lincoln's High Street. Once a bustling hive of entertainment for the city, it has lain dormant for 15 years. Reporter Ryan Butcher visited the building as work begins to bring the cinema back to life...

Crisp packets and cigarette ends from the mid-90s litter the dusty floor. The big screen and seats, which have been filled by thousands of people over the years, have long-since been ripped away.

But thanks to Off the Bench, a Lincoln-based volunteer organisation, all that is about to change.

After months of searching for a new community project, the group has announced it is to breathe new life into one of Lincoln's best-loved jewels and return The Ritz cinema to its former glory.

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Off the Bench hopes to re-open The Ritz as a 480-seat community cinema later this year, after a refit estimated to cost around £750,000.

It will show the latest Hollywood blockbusters, alongside cult favourites, old classics and foreign films.

And with its standard ticket price already set at £4.50, it will come as comfort to those disappointed by the higher prices at Lincoln's Odeon – which the Echo revealed last year to be the most expensive Odeon outside of London.

The Ritz will also play host to theme nights, showing everything from the Twilight saga to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, with fans of the films encouraged to dress up as their favourite characters.

The adjoining Wetherspoon pub will remain unchanged by the development, with Off the Bench focusing on the currently disused upper circle and projection area.

Builders are already on site measuring-up before work begins. A whole host of relics from times gone by have already been unearthed – from the projectionist's journal to letters to staff.

Maaike Veenkamp, the project manager from Off the Bench who will oversee The Ritz redevelopment, told the Echo that she hoped the reopening would unite the local community.

She said: "The idea to reopen The Ritz first started on a neighbourhood walk around the Park Ward area while we were thinking of ways to tackle anti-social behaviour.

"There's a large migrant population in this area and we wanted a community hub to bridge the two communities together.

"We have builders in at the moment, surveying to see how expensive the work is going to be. In the meantime we're already in the process of gathering funding and looking for help from local residents and businesses as well.

"We've had an absolutely phenomenal response so far from people who actually want to come and volunteer and get the place up and running again.

"Our aim is to open to the public at the end of 2012 but it's all going to depend on how much help we get.

"The idea behind The Ritz is to keep it cheap and affordable. And with the introduction of things like theme nights, we'll hopefully make going to the cinema more of an event again. Cinema fans will be able to dress up and watch their favourite film, making it something people will actually look forward to.

"We'll have the old classics and Disney films and things like that, but we also want to show the latest blockbusters as soon as we can get them. But it's a viewer's choice cinema and people will be getting what they actually want to see.

"With the response we've had, we also want to use the space as a live entertainment venue as well and have everything from comedians to live bands.

"In terms of the appearances, we want to restore The Ritz to its former glory and keep that retro look, but we'll be holding a community project meeting to get people in and find out exactly want they want – everything from colour scheme to design.

"There are so many old memories attached to the place and everyone has a fond story – there's no other venue like that in Lincoln with all that history. We just want to breathe some life back into The Ritz and make it something for the whole community to enjoy – not just a commercial cinema."

Sixty-three-year-old John Mann, from Birchwood, is one resident who fondly remembers The Ritz in its heyday.

He said: "I first remember coming to The Ritz back in the 1950s and 60s. I even saw King Kong the first time round when I was in my teens.

"I've seen a lot of live entertainment and bands there before as well. Everyone in Lincoln has fond memories of The Ritz.

"I think it's absolutely fantastic that its re-opening as a cinema and everyone I've spoken to agrees – especially if they restore it back to how it used to look.

"I'll certainly be volunteering to help out where and when I can once its up and running again."


JANUARY 6: Lincoln's Wetherspoons pub The Ritz to re-open as cinema after 15 years...

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  • eaglemat  |  October 31 2014, 6:31AM

    Well this is exciting news!

  • TB789  |  January 16 2012, 9:27AM

    If you manage to get it open, I may even drag my husband there for a film. He could do with a laugh...

    |   -19
  • bigyellabelly  |  January 15 2012, 4:51PM

    Sounds like a great idea scribbled on the back of a beer mat in the Ritz one cold Tuesday night. Reality ?....you've seen reality on TV. Usually rubbish and this will inevitably go the same way, because the money makes it just another episode of Fantasy Island. Sorry chaps. Back to the beer mats, for your next idea. Keep them coming....

    |   -12
  • Steve_Lincoln  |  January 15 2012, 2:42PM

    Lincoln6, yes Wetherspoons own the whole building.

    |   -2
  • Otblincs  |  January 15 2012, 2:15PM

    Fantastic, thanks TB789, see you in a few years then for the cap dofting then! Because there is no doubt at all that this will be a success for the whole of Lincoln. Warmest Regards otblincs

    |   13
  • TB789  |  January 15 2012, 1:57PM

    Of course I'd love to get involved with a scheme I don't think will work, won't be sustainable, will make naff all difference to 'the community'. I'm sure your detailed plans will astound me with their brilliant concepts, rationales and realistic projections. Hmm... second thoughts maybe I wouldn't. I wish you well. Seriously, I would like to be wrong and genuinely hope that you succeed in all your aspirations. Sorry if I make '100's of negative comments' (in your opinion). I believe them to be realistic and often when I'm naffed at wasted public money. Prove me wrong and if it's operating success in a couple of years I will doft my cap to you.

    |   -17
  • Otblincs  |  January 15 2012, 12:03PM

    TB789 I not from your history you have made 100s of negative comments on 100s of different articles, an interesting way to spend your time! We are always pleased to receive constructive criticism, especially from people armed with all the facts on a project. With this in mind we would really like to invite you to spend a day with us, looking round the project, gaining a full understanding of the model and delivery plan, and getting you involved with the develop and planning of such an ambitious and exciting development for the people of Lincoln. This way we can make full use of your opinions and feedback into the constantly developing ideas for The Ritz. It will also arm you with all the facts and information giving you everything you need to make future constructive comments. Would be great to hear from you and show you round. otblincs

    |   8
  • TB789  |  January 15 2012, 11:42AM

    Yeah, you could have a Costa Concordia coffee. If the OTB team are canny they could get themselves to Italy sharpish and strip the cinema kit off the CC. It will be ideal equipment having already been used on a sinking ship ;-)

    |   -1
  • AnxiousImp  |  January 15 2012, 10:18AM

    What could be better, having a curry & pint on a thursday night then and going upstairs to watch a movie!!! Great project, good luck and cat wait

    |   3
  • TB789  |  January 15 2012, 9:41AM

    Yeah, righto. Prediction: Even if some investors are dumb enough to back this folly and it does open in some form, it will last less than 2 years. And yes, you wouldn't want to be me; reality is a scary place for people like you.

    |   -4