Southport cinema ‘confident’ for the future as it calls for local support
Pictured Above: The Southport Bijou Cinema Team
A community cinema in Southport is looking to the future and urging residents to lend their support.
Southport’s Bijou Cinema is one of 70 local businesses that accept the Southport Gift Card, run by Miconex to stimulate economic activity on the main street. There has never been a better time to buy and use the gift card as local businesses continue to revert to something like normalcy and repair the damage caused by months of limited or no commerce.
Bijou is a community interest society (CIC), community space and non-profit arts venue run by volunteers.
Film buff, Michael Lockwood has spent his life dreaming of opening a cinema. In 2016, after his retirement, he bought his future premises.
Michael opened the Jewel in October 2019, but it closed in March 2020 due to lockdown restrictions.
Andy Harrison, director and general manager of Bijou Cinema, as well as his fellow directors, Phil and Lewis, have all been put on leave.
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After reopening in July 2020, the cinema struggled to attract audiences despite a government subsidy.
Andy said: “I think people got scared at first.
“We’re a good argument for movie theater security. I think they’re safer than the government credits them with.”
Southport was at Level 2, which means Bijou stayed open and had success over Christmas.
Sadly, in January 2021, Michael passed away, but Andy, who has become a close friend, takes comfort in knowing that Michael has achieved his goals.
Andy said: “He left a great legacy so we have to do a great job.
“It was a slow start, but we picked up. We have good supporters and we tend to know everyone who comes in.”
Bijou had to limit the number of visitors and operate with 35-seat screenings, so the cinema struggled to stay afloat.
Andy attributes the cinema’s survival to Michael’s financial foresight in creating a trust fund, but government grants and the leave program have proven to be essential.
He said: “We had some money behind us. I don’t know if that is true in the future, but we are doing well, so I am confident.”
The team is experimenting with projects to transform the cinema into a cultural hub. One initiative is the Southport Gift Card, which Andy hopes for.
He said: “We printed vouchers, but they didn’t look professional. We considered doing it with a card, but the costs were ridiculous.”
The team were delighted to learn of the existence of the Southport Gift Card.
Andy said, “It’s a great idea, and I hope everyone joins in. It supports the community and brings people out.”
Bijou is now aiming to use its reception hall as an art space for rehearsals for live music and theater companies.
Andy said the community could help by visiting and spreading the word.
The team noticed an increase in the number of younger customers, so they adjusted their movie screenings to meet different tastes.
Andy said: “We have a board where people can write suggestions. I was surprised that there is a great film community in Southport!”
InYourArea is proud to be a champion of local communities and calls on the people of Southport to support their downtown area by using the gift card wherever possible, especially as Father’s Day approaches.
You can buy your Southport Gift card here.
For more information on cinema, visit their website here; or visit their Instagram here.
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