• Sheila V

A Post Lock Down Personal Look at White River Cinema

Updated: Jul 25

White River Cinema

My Fears For The Future






I must put my hands up and confess to the fact that my hard core, devil may care attitude has been scared into submission by Covid19. In a matter of weeks I changed from a person who was always out reviewing anything and everything into a person that I no longer recognise. I have become too frightened to leave my front door and I hate it. I hate the feeling that some unseen virus has got me running scared, I hate not meeting friends for coffee or a glass of wine and, of course, I hate that my packed diary is now devoid of events until 2021. Everything cancelled because of a hideous stealthy killer.

But hang on a minute if a magic wand was waved and suddenly the live gigs, the festivals and theatre were all back on again how would I cope? Going by a show of shameful cowardice on my part, every event would pass me by as I cowered indoors.

The moment of truth came yesterday evening when, after psyching myself up all week, I stupidly talked myself out of a visit to our lovely White River Cinema. I had planned to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, last year’s epic film from my all time favourite Director, Quentin Tarantino. Yes, I saw it twice on the big screen last year, but it has stayed with me as one of his finest productions ever – a cinematic masterpiece. Consequently, I kicked myself today when I realised that I cannot continue living like a scaredy hermit and I had to face my fears.

So I phoned the Management, explained my torment and asked if I could stick my head in to check their safety precautions for myself. I have just returned from the cinema, where I was even shown the toilet precautions!

Honestly, I am in awe of the amount of thought and effort that has gone into safeguarding customers and staff alike. The cinema has a simple to follow one way system, everything is clearly signed for our benefit, hand sanitisers are available on all levels, floor distancing is clearly marked and separate exits prevent any crowding in the main foyer. The bar area has been stripped of tables and chairs, with the exception of two chairs for anyone who needs them and there is a clearly marked queuing system in place for the bar. Staff are constantly cleaning all areas, wiping doors, hand rails and counters and the toilets are closed every hour for 10 minutes while deep cleaning is carried out. Social distancing in the ladies is simple with alternate hand basins out of use and only one hand dryer running, before you ask I didn’t check the gents! The staff wear masks in all areas and they even have to take separate breaks in their staff room to avoid unnecessary close contact. The cinema seating itself was a big concern for me, but the cinema has invested in a computer screen which can be viewed from both sides of the counter clearly showing everyone the seats that are available, those that are filled and those that are out of commission to leave the required socially distanced spacing. I was invited to take a proper look inside each of the screens before their respective films began to judge for myself the distance between sold and out of commission seats; looking at a computer plan is all very well, but the reality is hard to picture. The layout is brilliant and spaces are much wider than I imagined. In retrospect, visiting White River Cinema on a wet Friday evening in late July, with wall to wall visitors could have been bad timing on my part, but here’s the thing – I spent an hour with the staff chatting and taking photos and very few punters came through.

I left the team at White River Cinema with mixed feelings, impressed beyond words at the no expense spared safety precautions – they have gone above and beyond the call and exceeded every expectation. I am delighted to report that all my fears about returning to the cinema have been kicked into touch and I will be going back next week to see Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

As I drove home, I was hit by an overwhelming worry for the future of our cinema –as already mentioned it was a wet Friday evening in the middle of tourist season and the cinema was almost empty. Pre Covid every screen would have been packed with all ages and the tills would have rung to the tune of popcorn, sweets and chocolate sales. Conversations with staff confirmed the cinema has been very quiet since they re-opened last week.

We all need to rally round and support our White River Cinema; it’s obvious that they cannot sustain the cost of keeping their doors open if they don’t get bums on seats fast. The cinema employs twenty two local people, we all know someone who works there. It is the beating heart of our town, the only local venue where we can enjoy fantastic films as well as theatre and music screenings, somewhere to meet friends and enjoy a shared experience. There have been mumblings concerning the lack of normal summer programming when the latest ‘blockbusters’ are screened. We have to realise we no longer live in ‘normal’ times, and the lack of blockbusters is not the fault of the cinema. The various distribution companies and movie franchises make the decisions on release dates, for example James Bond has been delayed for global release until November. Other big films have also been delayed, mainly due to Covid 19 and some won’t be available until Christmas – my big fear is that White River might not be here at Christmas. We have a long 84 year history of cinema in St. Austell, with the original Odeon Cinema opening in 1936, it was purchased by a local family W.T.Williams in 1981 when it was renamed The Film Centre and our splendid White River Cinema opened its doors in 2008. The cinema went on to win a huge accolade in 2011 when it was awarded the title of Independent Cinema of the Year. We should be extremely proud of our cinema and staff, long may they continue to feed our love of movies.

Please check out the raft of brilliant award winning films currently screening in St. Austell, everything from Joker to Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back, 1917 to Bohemian Rhapsody plus the latest Trolls for the little ones. Oh! and did I mention the spectacular Once Upon A Time In Hollywood? I’m going next week, I no longer have any fears about safety and social distancing at White River Cinema, I hope to see other movie fans overcoming fears too.

All tickets are currently at the bargain price of £5 each, you can book in advance online at www.wtwcinemas.co.uk/staustell or give them a call on 01726 66301




Sheila Vanloo

July 2020

07702 452265

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©2020 by Sheila Vanloo