Tiny Southwold cinema plans to expand

The �50,000 expansion of a tiny Suffolk cinema looks set to make a big difference to film-lovers.

The Electric Picture Palace in Southwold has secured planning permission to expand and work could start within weeks.

The Southwold Film Society, which runs the Edwardian-style cinema on a charitable basis, is converting a neighbouring garage to create a two-storey extension consisting of a new-look foyer, toilets, an office, a film archive and private screening room.

The mini-cinema in Blackmill will also be able to add two more seats, making a grand total of 70.

'It's a tiny extension really,' said society chairman John Bennett, 'but it will make an enourmous difference to us.'

Society members have so far raised almost �20,000 towards the project and there are further fundraisers in the pipeline. The aim is to complete the work in time for the venue's 10th anniversary in 2012.

'We've got enough money to make a start,' said Mr Bennett. 'We spent most of last year acquiring the garage next door and now we've got planning permission work could start within the next few weeks.

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'There's quite a lot of alteration to do – we're turning an old garage into what will be used as a larger foyer, a little office and private screening rooms. We're also planning to have a children's animation studio.'

The extension fundraising campaign has seen some of the society's 1,000 members take part in regular film quizzes. It is also selling a DVD entitled Southwold Having a Wonderful Time.

In recommending the expansion plans for approval, Waveney District Council planning officer Ian Robertson said in his report: 'The Electric Picture Palace is a very interesting building and appears to be very successful. This proposal would add further interet to this part of the town's conservation area.'

The Electric Picture Palace was officially opened by Monty Python star Michael Palin in 2002. The venue screens about 100 films a year, both classic and current, over four seasons. The current season runs until April 23 and movies being shown include the 1937 picture Oh Mr Porter.

In the past decade the cinema has revived the practice of organ music during intermissions. It also has a wedding licence.

For more information call the Electric Picture Palace box office on 07815 769565.

Membership to Southwold Film Society is �10 a year.