Campaigners vow to save Brynmawr's historic Market Hall cinema
BRYNMAWR residents vowed to save their "iconic" cinema by setting up a social enterprise and running it themselves if Blaenau Gwent council presses ahead with controversial plans to close it.
Over 4,000 people have signed a petition and 100 people gathered outside the Market Hall Cinema on Saturday, saying if it closes "we will have nothing left".
The cinema and Nantyglo Leisure Centre are both at risk of closure to help the local authority address its £3.9 million budget deficit- moves that could save it around £300,000.
Save Our Cinema group secretary Andrea Durban said: "It is not negotiable. Tredegar has its clock, we have our Market Hall, which is our iconic heritage building.
"It’s been a cinema since 1894 and before that, was used for travelling theatre groups, silent movies and Eisteddfods. If it could talk it would tell wonderful stories and is very dear to the heart of the community."
Committee member John Watkins, 48, called it "the hub of the community" and said he believes it is the oldest continually-run cinema in Wales.
He said a social enterprise group is "in the very early stages of being formulated", but members are waiting for the council to "show its hand", adding: "Things are likely to progress very quickly in the next couple of weeks."
Nantyglo and Blaina Town Council leader Derry Tucker said: "It’s totally disgusting, I was here at 8.45pm last Friday and saw all the children’s smiling faces coming out. It’s something we don’t want to lose."
The 350-seat cinema has one showing a day at 7pm, but with tickets at just £4.50, locals pointed out it is considerably cheaper than out-of-town multi-screen venues.
They also believe other parts of the borough are suffering as a result of the multi-million pound regeneration of The Works site, Ebbw Vale- where a cinema is planned.
Wayne Hodgins said: "I’m not against regeneration there, but not to the detriment of other valleys areas."
Beth Watkins said: "It would be absolutely devastating. Facilities here are diminishing year-on-year and if it closes, we will have nothing left."
* There have been rumours in Brynmawr that locally-born film director Peter Watkins-Hughes is interested in taking it on. But, after being contacted by the Argus, he called the situation a "shame", but dismissed the talk as "nonsense".