Buried in the alleyways in the heart of Bath hides a cinema. Small, dated and picturesque, the cinema is not known to the masses. Frequently full of film buffs and the elder generation, you would expect to find them watching long ago released or black and white films, yet The Little Theatre Cinema screens the latest big screen releases, competing with the chain-branded cinemas.
In 1934, Consuelo de Reyes, a community theatre pioneer, and her husband, stage director Peter Keys, started to build The Little Theatre Cinema. Originally a large town house, the building was transformed into a theatre and cinema and opened its doors in 1935.
Its foundations originate in the early twentieth century, in an organisation called Citizen House, founded by Hellen Hope. It was a community centre, home to a wide range of voluntary societies concerned with welfare, education and the arts. Here Reyes, Hope’s colleague and successor, set up The Citizen House Players – a community theatre group aiming to widen the opportunity for cultural pursuits, creating a two hundred seating auditorium and the first incarnation of The Little Theatre Cinema.
When Citizen House burnt down in 1936, Reyes re-opened The Little Theatre Cinema as a cinema in the building next door. At first, the main function was to distribute news and show newsreels to the local community, with often short cartoons accompanying them. In 1939, the theatre expanded to show feature films, and the newsreels became the shorts shown before the main feature.
While many cinemas closed their doors, The Little Theatre Cinema expanded, creating a second screen in 1979 from the screen storeroom. Having celebrated seventy years in business in 2009, The Little Theatre Cinema now relies heavily on the local community for support in keeping the cinema open. As part of the community it plays host to events such as the annual Bath Film Festival.
Now the UK’s oldest family-run cinema, and now part of the Picture House brand, the cinema is run by Reyes’ daughter, Hilary King. Competing with the Odeon a stone’s throw away, the entry fee to both cinemas costs the same, but The Little Theatre Cinema still holds all the good qualities of an old-world cinema. Its décor, having been purposely re-built in the 80s to evoke the style of the 30s, is remnant of ‘the good old days’; yet it features all of the latest technology for playing feature films and not to mention comfortable seats.
The unique atmosphere is wonderful. There is hustle and bustle as people settle down in their seats, descending into silence as every person in the room becomes fixated on the film. The Little Theatre Cinema is not just for the film fanatic, but for those who enjoy cultural experiences.
The cinema offers a student membership for £15 a year. This membership allows the user 10% discount on food and drinks, two free film tickets, and £2 off your student ticket at the cinema. Other perks to the membership include treats such as 20% off at Giraffe at selected times and membership to the E4 Slackers Club, which allows you to see a free film every month.
Visit The Little Theatre Cinema Website to book your tickets.