Curtain raised on theatre digital age

Alnwick Playhouse administrator Nicola Stevenson with the old film projector.
Alnwick Playhouse administrator Nicola Stevenson with the old film projector.
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A community venue which was rocked by Arts Council funding cuts faces a bright future, following a £75,000 cash boost.

The money has allowed Alnwick Playhouse to install a new digital cinema projector with a live satellite link-up.

Alnwick Playhouse digital projector.

Alnwick Playhouse digital projector.

It means the centre will now offer a ‘quality movie experience with a surround-sound system’ and be able to show films just days after their release – including The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

On top of that, the Playhouse will be able to stream live the very best shows and productions from the National Theatre in London and Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet.

And Playhouse manager, Jo Potts, believes this will allow the venue to compete with larger theatres and mainstream cinemas, which in turn will boost the Playhouse coffers.

She said: “We may have lost the Arts Council money but we are definitely here and the future is bright.

“It is about development and I think the key to the success of the Playhouse is innovation and investment.

“The Playhouse was in jeopardy of being left behind but we have just powered ahead.

“We have managed to raise £75,000 and we have installed the new projector with the live satellite link-up.

“It means people will no longer have a second-class movie experience and we will be able to stream productions from the likes of the National Theatre, which is fantastic.

“It should be a great source of income.”

However, those involved are not prepared to rest on their laurels and a new annual supporters’ scheme – Front Row – has been launched.

The initiative, which will see members pledge an annual cash gift in return for special offers, discounts and privileges, aims to raise £120,000 over the next three years.

Jo said: “We want to keep going and we have still got more projects that we want to do, which is why we have launched the Front Row scheme.

“We are always looking for ways to make the Playhouse even better, for example introducing more education work to benefit our local children, starting a community cafe and streaming live dance, theatre and music direct from international venues and much more.

“People can make this happen by joining Front Row.”

The first digital screening took place last night with The Dark Knight Rises, which is also on tonight at 7.30pm.

The first live satellite streaming, which will be from London’s National Theatre, is The Last of the Haussmans, starring Julie Waters, on October 11.

Roy Todd, chairman of trustees, is delighted with the progress being made.

He said: “I think this will enhance our box office takings and help us to become more self-sufficient.

“After the Arts Council cuts I’m not sure I thought we would make the progress we have made so quickly.

“I think that has come as a very pleasant surprise to us and it is down to the hard work of Jo, her staff and everyone else who has played their part.”

The digital cinema projector and satellite link follow on the back of the new online box office system.

For details about the Playhouse and to find out more about the Front Row scheme, visit www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk or call 01665 510785.