INTERVIEW: Jam Jar Cinema | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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While some people may be looking forward to a summer holiday, Jam Jar Cinema‘s Dan Ellis is already daydreaming about Christmas. “I can’t wait to sit down with a glass of my Grandma’s mulled wine, stick on It’s A Wonderful Life and just forget 2020,” he sighs. With his shiny new and improved cinema forced to stand idle due to the pandemic, it’s safe to say that this year hasn’t quite gone to plan for Dan.

The Jam Jar Cinema has been at the heart of Whitley Bay’s arts scene since it opened its doors in 2013. “We programme based on what people tell us they want to see.” Dan explains. “This can be anything from the latest blockbusters to independent foreign language films. If people want to see it, we play it.” The cinema’s focus on the local community means that they’ve not only built a great connection with their audience, but also that they’re a central part of life in the town. “We’re really proud to be a flag bearer for Whitley Bay,” Dan enthuses.

Suddenly being shut off from those connections has been tough. The lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time, so soon after adding two new screens and a lift to the cinema. “Our biggest challenge has been just to keep going and protect the building,” Dan tells me. “We’ve had some support from the British Film Institute, without which we would have struggled to continue.”

We’re really proud to be a flag bearer for Whitley Bay

It’s not all doom and gloom though; the cinema recently won the UK Small Business of the Year Award. “We’re really proud to be a small business. We’ve never wanted to take over the world but this recognition feels like a real feather in our cap.”

With cinemas across the world closed, it’s also had a knock-on effect on the studios. Many have delayed releasing summer blockbusters that independents like Jam Jar rely on to fill their seats. For now, this means that they will be showing classics when they reopen in late July, but Dan’s just pleased to be able to screen pictures again. “Showing classics is how we started and it’s great to be able to screen people’s old favourites again.”

You might notice Jam Jar looking a bit different when you next visit. Screens will protect the kiosks and the experience is going to be a whole lot less crowded, with strict social distancing in force. As someone who has hesitated somewhat to get back out into the world, hearing Dan tell me about the measures they have put in place gives me confidence that a night out at Jam Jar Cinema is going to be a safe one.

Talking to Dan about the cinema’s reopening is like seeing the first swallows of spring; you just know that sunnier days are coming soon. The cinema hopes to be back to some sort of normal in time for Christmas when Dan is already planning their annual festive programme. Until then, they’ll be open during weekends for all your cinematic needs.

Jam Jar Cinema in Whitley Bay reopens on 31st July. Help the Jam Jar Cinema by becoming a friend or buy a ticket to one of their shows. For listings and tickets visit their website

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