Suffolk: Wayne Burns celebrates 30 years at the Leiston cinema
4:00 PM May 10, 2022
The story of how a movie director took over a historic but neglected movie theater and turned it into one of the country’s most beloved independent venues could make for a movie of its own.
But this particular tale is not a work of fiction because this month Wayne Burns will celebrate 30 years at the helm of the Leiston Film Theater with a screening of Ealing’s 1957 classic The Smallest Show on Earth.
He joined the 107-year-old High Street cinema in 1992 aged 22 and spent three decades nurturing the hall’s owners and supporters through the cinema’s transformation from a ‘flea pit neglected.
His love for cinema dates back to an open day at the Aldeburgh cinema as a teenager and he was first employed as a projectionist at the seaside cinema in the 1980s, fulfilling a childhood dream and training in the art of projecting 16 mm and 35 mm films. .
In 1992 Leiston City Council, which had saved the Leiston Picture House from closure in 1976, advertised for a deputy manager and Mr Burns was offered the job, although he was reluctant to take on the task because of the amount of work required. .
He said: “Initially, I had serious reservations about joining the cinema. It was very obvious that there was a lot that needed to be done to make the venue provide an experience that paying audiences expected.
“Fortunately, the formation of the Film Theater Support Club in 1992 and the City Council’s renewed drive to see Leiston cinema reach its full potential enabled us to slowly turn our vision into an eventual reality.”
A substantial program of repairs and refurbishment was undertaken and many great films were shown, while there was also an enhanced selection of live entertainment, including an annual pantomime which proved popular.
In 1994, he took over the management of the cinema and the projection and sound equipment was modernized, the foyer enlarged and new toilets were installed.
Since then, the number of customers has increased considerably and in 2019 the place recorded its highest number ever.
The anniversary screening will take place on May 25 and will be followed by tea/coffee and birthday cake.
Tickets are now available from the box office on 01728 830549 and at www.leistonfilmtheatre.co.uk.