Curtain up as nation’s oldest cinema looks to bright future

Tuesday 28th June 2022 4:09 pm
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Market Hall cinema
The Market Hall cinema in Brymawr is Wales’ oldest cinema (Pic from www.markethallcinema.co.uk )

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THE curtain will continue to rise at the oldest surviving cinema in Wales, after the community company which runs it were finally handed ownership.

Dating back to 1894 and named UK Cinema of the Year in 2014, the discovery of asbestos in Brynmawr’s Market Hall Cinema 2016 put its future at risk.

It was closed for six months by owners Blaenau Gwent Council, sparking anger from the Market Hall Cinema and Arts Group, who accused the local authority of ”wilful abandonment” and “incompetency” costing them £150,000 in lost revenue.

The council, which has now handed ownership to the trust after a two-year Covid delay, said at the time it had done nothing wrong and had acted “with public safety in mind”.

Film and TV star Michael Sheen officially reopened the historic Market Square cinema in 2017, describing it as an “inspiration”.

Its first screening was way back in 1899 when the ‘blockbuster’ on offer was ‘A Boer War Pictorial’.

And now the freehold of the 128-year-old building, which started out as part-wholesale market, part-concert hall, has been transferred, including the former library next door, with plans to install a second screen within the next five years.

Market Hall Cinema and Arts Trust chair Beth Watkins said: “We are excited to now be in a position where we can commence with our plans to develop the Market Hall, securing its future.

“The ability to provide this in the centre of Brynmawr in such a historical venue is exciting and something that, as a charity, we feel passionate about.”

Council leader and executive member for corporate and performance, Cllr Steve Thomas, said: “There has always been a shared desire to secure a sustainable and successful future for this important and much-loved local facility.

“Community Asset Transfers are proving successful across Blaenau Gwent, helping to retain and even improve community and sporting facilities for people to use and enjoy.

“There has been a true partnership approach from the council and the trustees to reach this landmark point for the cinema, and with plans for a second screen in the pipeline we look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength.”

Back at the end of the 1800s, the hall with gallery and market platform/stage accommodated about 1,200 people.

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