From blockbuster movies to video game tournaments - behind the scenes at Doncaster's new town centre cinema

It’s more than 10 years since the Odeon closed on Hall Gate.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 9:02 am

Back in April 2008, Doncaster’s last town centre cinema shut its doors with a showing of Never Back Down.

On Monday, audiences will return for the first time since then, when the projector rolls for Peter Rabbit 2, at the new Savoy cinema, at Sir Nigel Gresley Square.

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General Manager Kieran McNiffe, pictured taking delivery of its first film, Spiral: From the Book of Saw. Picture: NDFP-11-05-21-Savoy 5-NMSY

With the Government confirming cinemas will be able to open from May 17, bookings were already being taken the same evening the prime minister made the announcement, said the new venue’s general manager, Kieran McNiffe.

He said he felt very excited about opening – he has been waiting since September to do so, when the building was first completed.

“Finally, after just over a year of delay we finally get to open our doors to the customers of Doncaster. I’m very excited. I cannot wait,” he said.

"The town centre’s needed a cinema for a long time. We've got the cinema in the external areas of Doncaster, but to have a cinema in the town centre itself is very exciting for the customers. It's been a decade since you last had a cinema in the town centre itself.

Lewis Cullen, assistant manager, Kieran McNiffe, general manager and Bradley Dewsnap, assistant manager, pictured outside the Savoy Cinema Doncaster. Picture: NDFP-11-05-21-Savoy 3-NMSY

"We were ready to go in September, but restrictions made a comeback."

The new site has taken on 18 staff, including the managers. More are expected to be taken on in future, when more people are allowed into the auditoria.

It has six screens, ranging from the biggest, screen one, which holds 167, to the smallest 62-seater screen six.

But they will only be able to open at 25 per cent capacity at present.

Screen One from the Projection Booth, which features 4K laser projection and Dolby Atmos immersive sound. Picture: NDFP-11-05-21-Savoy 12-NMSY

The seats are all the same price but some of them are electric powered reclining chairs, and some are double seats for couples.

Once the pandemic restrictions are over, the smallest auditorium will be available for hire for parties. And not just for films.

The big screen and surround sound can also be linked up to a games console, and some parties have chosen to play giant sized video games. Either way, a party room for food is just opposite.

Mr McNiffe has worked in cinema for over 20 years, and when he first started at Meadowhall, he used to have to splice sections of film together, and load them into the 35mm projectors. Now, the films are provided on hard drives or downloaded into laser projectors, in the long, single projection room, which runs behind the audioria.

He said: “I love the idea of 35mm film and I’m sad its gone. But the quality is much better now and it doesn’t deteriorate with the number of showings any more.”

Among those starting work at the new venue is 24-year-old Bradley Dewsnap, from Sprotbrough. He is a big film fan and is delighted to get a job in cinema. He’d previously worked at the Dome.

“The first film I remember seeing at a cinema was one of the Toy Story films,” he said. “But I’m a big film fan and this was too much of an opportunity to miss. I’ve got a nephew who’s aged two, and I can’t wait to see his face when he sees Peter Rabbit here.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.