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With many cinemas still closed due to COVID-19, we're continuing to celebrate independent venues and exhibitors across the UK in our series Cinemas that Made Me. This time it's the turn of the Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor, Stockport, and its passionate team member Annie Woodall.
The Savoy Cinema has a long history as an important community fixture in Heaton Moor. Marketing, Film & Event Coordinator Annie Woodall grew up with the Savoy and was relieved to see it rejuvenated following a brief closure a few years ago. Below, Annie gives us the full story, from her childhood memories to joining the team and beyond.
The Savoy has been at the heart of Heaton Moor since 1923. In 2014, the letters from the ‘now showing' boards were stripped down and the doors were closed for what we all thought was going to be forever, but the Mundin family bought and renovated it, and reopened its doors as a boutique cinema in October 2015. Having lived in the Heatons my whole life, I saw how The Savoy's return rejuvenated the area, with many new independent shops and restaurants opening.
We offer audiences local nights out and we invite schools nearby to enjoy end-of-year trips in a building with great heritage.
Knowing our audience is the key to making them feel at home.Annie Woodall, Marketing, Film & Event Coordinator at The Savoy Cinema, Stockport
My first job in cinema was in fact at The Savoy! I applied when it first reopened, as I was so invested in its journey and what it is that makes an independent cinema. Beginning the job in my teens with not much other work experience, I began where we all do; ripping tickets, ushering, and serving popcorn.
As the first year passed, I grew more interested in projection and behind-the-screen work. My Thursday mornings consisted of choosing and testing trailers for the new cinema week, all before going to college where I studied film too. I now help with planning events and programming.
In December 2018, we opened a new site in Wilmslow, The Rex, and I was part of the team building it up from scratch. This was really fun to do. We had to apply our previous experiences to a completely new demographic, and grow from one screen to two.
I'm now a proud member of the teams at both The Savoy and The Rex. All year round we introduce our audience to new films, or old classics, and show them what independent cinema is.
It's such a special place to me and introduced me to the world of cinema. When I was younger, I visited every week! I had a whole routine, from walking down each Saturday (trusted to go either alone or with a friend), to buying a ticket and getting the same snack. It was a little like clockwork and I loved it.
When it was announced that The Savoy had closed, I was distraught. In 2015, when I heard it was going to be refurbished I knew it was time for me to really learn about cinema, to be part of somewhere I loved and felt so at home, so I could go on to create this love for the rest of our community.
Technology has progressed a lot in multiplex cinemas; you can easily go out to watch a film and not have any interaction with staff, something I always miss. I aim to do the opposite at our cinemas.
My approach is to make customers feel like they're a part of our cinema family; that they can come in any day of the week and I'll know what name they're booked under, and what drink they'd like. Building a rapport with our audience is not only a thank you for their loyalty, but a way of expressing how much we appreciate their support!
My favourite example is a customer I call "china teacup lady". This lady visited our cinema one day, without having been before and with no intention of becoming a member. We had a chat while she was making her booking, and she mentioned an actress who would only drink tea from a china teacup, and that she aspired to do this too. I booked her in for an upcoming show and when she arrived, I surprised her with her own personal china teacup, explaining that we'd store it for her future visits. She soon became a member, and I see her each Thursday at 2.30pm for our silver screen show, with her teacup filled at the ready. Knowing our audience is the key to making them feel at home.
I'm particularly proud of having organised a screening of Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story, featuring a Q&A with the director and screenwriter Steve Sullivan. After watching the documentary at a screening weekend, I knew I had to bring it back home with me and share it with our audience.
Frank Sidebottom is an iconic figure in Manchester and as the documentary shared clips and tales of the city and around the area from the past 25 years, I knew our local audiences would appreciate the opportunity to reminisce. I was really excited when Steve Sullivan said he'd travel from his home in Cardiff all the way to Stockport for the night. The event was a success; sharing the film with our community, and pairing it with an enlightening Q&A from the man behind it all.
We also love taking part in the Into Film Festival and other free screenings for children. We've welcomed so many children from various backgrounds, the majority who had never been to an independent cinema - or any cinema - before. Getting to be the venue that welcomes them to that world is amazing.
As we've been closed throughout lockdown, it's given me plenty of time to formulate many new ideas and projects that I cannot wait to bring to the cinema when we're back again.
We've been running Heroes in Cinema, a pay-it-forward programme that allows the public to purchase a cinema ticket for a member of the NHS as a thank you for all their hard work, especially during this time. Tickets bought are a brilliant way for them to enjoy a well-deserved night to the cinema when it's safe to do so, simultaneously supporting us while we're closed. It's been really successful, selling over 300 tickets! We're now even more excited to open our doors again, so we can thank our local NHS staff in style.
I am really looking forward to seeing the new, and now very anticipated A Quiet Place Part II as I loved the first one.
I also can't wait to watch an old classic with an audience; a feel-good classic film that everyone knows the words to and can reminisce with while we watch. There's something so special about watching a film with an auditorium of people who you don't actually know, but who all share a love for the same film. That's something I can't wait to experience again myself, and provide our audiences with too.
You can support the Savoy by buying a Heroes in Cinema ticket, also available at The Rex in Wilmslow.
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