Keswick’s cinema could reduce its opening to five days a week as it struggles to break even because of the effects of coronavirus.
The Alhambra received nearly £5,000 from the Government’s culture recovery fund, but that money is to cover the cost of changes already made to make the cinema COVID-safe, including a sneeze screen, hand sanitisers and website with on-line seat-allocation, since it reopened in July after a four-month closure during lockdown.
A more important grant of up to £20,000 has been applied for to cover losses now being incurred as independent cinema tries to cope with a reduced capacity and a lack of blockbuster new films, including the latest James Bond movie, whose delayed release has led Cineworld to mothball all its UK screens.
But the additional government money, in the form of a business sustainability grant, still won’t be enough to prevent drastic measures being considered by management at the family-run Alhambra, said co-owner Carol Rennie.
“This safety grant from the new fund for independent cinemas is really good. It is very welcome but it has not stopped us incurring significant losses,” she said.
“We have already spent that money on essential COVID measures to reopen and we are struggling to break even despite owning the building and not having any rent to pay.
“Losing Bond and other big new releases was a terrible blow. We’ve had about eight new films all postponed and it does mean we are considering whether (opening on) five days would help. It would save money on heating bills two days a week,” she said.
The Alhambra’s initial £4,884 grant is from the Government’s £1.57 billion culture recovery fund.
It is one of eight north west cinemas to receive money after being selected for the initial awards by the British Film Institute from a £30 million pot it is allocating on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Keswick MP Trudy Harrison applauded this week’s announcement about the grant.
The Copeland Conservative said: “This unprecedented package will be a welcome relief for many arts venues across the country. Venues such as these are so important to towns like Keswick and I am pleased that government is tackling the crisis facing our most loved arts organisations and heritage sites through the culture recovery fund.”
The Alhambra has been operating at barely 20 per cent of its 248-seat capacity because of social distancing, and screenings on every day of the week are reduced to two, with the audience wearing face coverings.
Thirty-five other venues across England will receive grants totalling more than £650,000 in the first awards to be allocated from the £30 million fund.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “During lockdown, many of us sought comfort in the escapism of a good film from our living rooms but nothing can beat watching something for the first time in a cinema. This funding is just the first tranche of our help for independent cinemas with more support to come up and down the country each week.”
The Alhambra suffered another setback this week when a fuse blew in its server and the loss of power led to the cancellation of two screenings on Sunday, including the one for Keswick Film Club.