GUESTS have been ‘excited’ to return to a local independent cinema dubbed among the best in the country – as its manager remarked that 'it’s nice to have that buzz back’.

The Plaza, based on Trinity Street, Dorchester, is a 1930s picture house with four screens which reopened on Monday, May 17 as per the easing of lockdown restrictions on leisure venues.

The Picturedrome owned cinema was dubbed the third best independent cinema in the country in a study last year and also boasts a five-out-of-five rating on Tripadvisor.

Reviews recently shared online about the cinema have described the venue as 'brilliant' and a ‘fantastic local facility’. Some guests have praised its 'organised and efficient' coronavirus safety measures as well as complement its 'friendly staff'.

Its general manager since 2018, Alan Escott, previously told the Dorset Echo how the cinema stands out from its competitors because it prides itself ‘on making cinema affordable for everyone.’ With a ticket price of £3.50, which are lower than rivals Cineworld and nearby Odeon, it’s easy to see why.

Big demand from guests to return to Plaza

Ahead of its reopening, Mr Escott worked with film bookers and distributors to build up several showings on its opening week, with the likes of Oscar-winning Nomadland and fan-favourite Godzilla vs Kong entertaining film lovers.

He said: “There was a fear that distributors were reluctant to issue films until they knew there was going to be an audience.

“But this time, we have seen demand for them and releasing the bigger titles that were going to be release last year.

“It’s good with the Oscar films coming out in cinemas such as Nomadland and we are looking forward to screening The Father starring Sir Anthony Hopkins in June.”

With a number of Oscar-nominated films appearing in the cinema, he hopes that locals will come to the Plaza to watch them.

'It’s just been nice to have that buzz back in the building'

Reflecting on the reopening week, Mr Escott noted there is ‘definitely a different feel to return to the cinema this time’ due to peoples’ need to ‘get some leisure activities back in their lives’ and a return of some normality.

Peter Rabbit 2 has been a key part with its sold-out screenings, as the much delayed film finally released this week.

He said: “Everyone has been positive and excited to come back. It’s just been nice to have that buzz back in the building.

“It’s a big old building but when it’s occupied, it has a completely different feel to it.”

He added: "We are really pleased to have customers back. The support we have received is amazing - we have had people send us money to share amongst the staff, which has boosted staff morale and we have had experienced cleaners who offered to deep clean the cinema.

"It’s support I've never seen anywhere else. I think there’s always support for local companies that support the local community."

Why cinemas will survive in post-pandemic world

The Plaza, like other independent venues, has also received funding from Government's Culture Recovery Fund to ensure its survival.

With film studios releasing their movies on streaming services such as Disney+ and Netflix, there has been a debate of how cinemas will survive in a post-coronavirus pandemic world.

But Mr Escott was confident that the cinemas will remain an integral part of the film industry, noting that the industry has gone through several key changes over the past decades.

He said: “I think the industry has seen many changes from black and white to colour pictures, the sound, going from film to digital.

“I personally think there is a need for cinemas. It’s just that cinemas need to adapt and look at their marketing model and that charging £12 for a ticket is not the way to go.

“Whereas we pay £3.50 a ticket. It’s proved in the past that when we opened up in August last year, we had Trolls 2 and people still wanted to see it in the cinema despite it being streamed on demand services.

“We have Godzilla v Kong in the cinema right now which people may have already watched online but you cannot replicate the cinema experience at home.

“It’s about a shared experience with other people, the feeling of watching a film for the first time, the sounds and atmosphere and of course, bringing people together.”


t: 01305 830818


Twitter: @JournoMikeT