Cinema deal is one man's dream come true
Emma KnightsHe has been enchanted by movies since he was young and now Gary Stevens has fulfilled a lifelong dream to own his own cinema, having taken over Fakenham's Hollywood Central Cinema with his company Stevens Cinema.Emma Knights
He has been enchanted by movies since he was young and now Gary Stevens has fulfilled a lifelong dream to own his own cinema.
Mr Stevens, who has spent more than three decades working for the film industry, has taken over Fakenham's Hollywood Central Cinema with his company Stevens Cinema.
After spending his whole cinematic career working as a manager for larger cinema companies Mr Stevens said he was very excited at the prospect of owning his very own movie theatre business - and he said Fakenham's traditional cinema, which will continue to run under the Hollywood name, was the perfect place for him.
He said: "When I first walked into the cinema I thought, 'this is the cinema for me.' It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to own a cinema. I took over on Friday and now it is a dream that has become a reality.
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"I love the traditional cinema. I am a member of the Cinema Theatre Association and very passionate about old cinemas. The Fakenham cinema has a wonderful nostalgia to it."
He said his passion for cinema runs in his family because his parents, Kenneth and Eileen Stevens, met at the ABC in Wolverhampton when his dad was the chief projectionist there and his mum was chief cashier.
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Mr Stevens, 44, started in the cinema business when he did work experience aged 13 in the projection rooms of the ABC in Wolverhampton.
In the 1980s he became the general manager of Kings Cinema in West Bromwich, before moving to the Lighthouse Media Centre in Wolverhampton in the early 1990s, then the Apollo Cinema in Stafford in the mid 1990s.
He was at the Regal Cinema at Leamington Spa for about 14 years where he took the cinema from one big screen to six screens, and he then went on to open the seven-screen Apollo Cinema at the Kingfisher Shopping Centre in Redditch.
His most recent role has been in operations management for Merlin Cinemas in Devon and Cornwall.
Now he will be in charge of his own cinema Mr Stevens said he hoped to build on the existing success of Fakenham's Hollywood Central Cinema.
He said the jobs of the cinema's current staff were safe and said in the future he would like to introduce a computerised box office system and create a caf� bar at the venue. He said he would also like to show some art-house movies and have some special showings of older film classics.
Hollywood Cinemas proprietor Trevor Wicks said he thought Mr Stevens was the ideal person to be taking over the Fakenham cinema.
Mr Wicks said he would continue to run Hollywood Cinemas' other venues in Lowestoft, Dereham, Yarmouth, Bury St Edmunds, Norwich and Ipswich.
The Hollywood Central Cinema in Fakenham was built in 1855 as the Corn Hall and the building also served as a magistrates' court and a library.
It was converted into a 700-seat cinema in 1930 and was renamed as the Central Cinema seven years later.
After closing in 1976 it became a bingo club until the 1990s and after lying empty and unused for a couple of years, it was re-opened in July 2000 as the Hollywood Cinema.