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Dream is over for Fakenham cinema boss

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 February 2010 | UPDATED: 11:12 07 July 2010

Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens

Chris Hill

A film fanatic's lifelong dream of running his own cinema has ended after he announced the sale of his struggling business to protect the venue's future.

A film fanatic's lifelong dream of running his own cinema has ended after he announced the sale of his struggling business to protect the venue's future.

Gary Stevens spent 30 years managing movie theatres for larger companies before he took over the Central Cinema in Fakenham's Market Place a year ago.

But the venue's fortunes were hit by a combination of hot weather diverting potential audiences to north Norfolk's beaches during the summer and frozen roads keeping them at home in the winter.

Mr Stevens said the financial demands on the cinema meant it could not survive as an independent business and he had been unable to find financial backing to drive the venture forward.

The lease on the Victorian former Corn Hall building will be returned to its former operators, Hollywood Cinemas, which will take over the workforce and the film programming from March 26.

“With the prospect of a hard winter and huge energy bills, I had to see what else I could do,” said Mr Stevens. “It was no good living my dream any more.

“There is a saying: 'Better to have run and lost than never to have run at all.' I am grateful, however, for the knowledge and experience gained from that turbulent run. I have experienced both the loneliness and, sometimes, the tremendous job satisfaction in owning a small cinema business.

“The cinema needs to be part of a bigger group in order to make safe the future of the staff and the complex.”

Trevor Wicks runs the Hollywood chain of cinemas, which already operates in Norwich, Dereham, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

He said: “Gary was worked very hard and done a good job, but unfortunately he has not been able to make it work. We wish him well. He is a very enthusiastic person, but it is a hard world out there.”

Mr Wicks said he relished another opportunity to manage one of his favourite cinemas.

“It is a nice conversion and a lovely building, so we look forward to taking it back on March 26,” he said. “It was always a success for us and always made a profit.

“For a town like Fakenham it would be a huge body blow if a building like that were to close. The public won't notice too much - it will be a smooth transition and we are taking back the same staff which Gary took over.”

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