Saffron Screen to mark 10th anniversary

Saffron Screen's 10th birthday

Saffron Screen's 10th birthday - Credit: Archant

To celebrate 10 years since Saffron Screen launched in May 2006, the cinema is showing a film ahead of the rest of the country.

The film based on Jane Austen’s early novel Lady Susan, Love and Friendship on Saturday, May 21, stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevingny and the gala screening at 8pm, includes a birthday party from 7pm with bubbles and cake.

Also to celebrate the decade, a series of six films has been chosen as favourites by the screen staff to be shown at 2006 prices – £5 for adults and £3.50 for children. These include Paddington with a teddy bear’s picnic and competitions, as well as How to Train Your Dragon, Slumdog Millionnaire, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Atonement. The sixth film, Up, will be shown as a “Cinema for Tinies” designed for parents at £3.90 for adults, £2.90 for children and free for under twos.

Over the decade, Saffron Screen has won the Market Town Award for East of England and Projection Team of the Year. It was shortlisted for Cinema of the Year Award in 2013 and 2015.

The most popular film shown has been Mama Mia, seen by 2,835 people at the Screen on the Green on Saffron Walden Common.

Saffron Screen was started by Rebecca del Tufo, a lawyer, who just happens to live in the house in Saffron Walden High Street that was once the residence of film director Jack Cardiff.

She took up the torch after an Uttlesford District Council survey in 2004 found that the amenity most people lacked was a cinema.

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Saffron Walden County High School said the cinema could use the school hall and Jack Cardiff came to the launch.

Rebecca said: “He gave a delightful question and answer session after a screening of the film A Matter of Life and Death with fabulous tales of working with Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth and Humphrey Bogart. He was in his 90s by then.”

Rebecca says the biggest buzz over the years has been the visits from directors, actors and screenwriters speaking about their work.

She said: “It is a huge privilege to hear from them about their films, but also a thrill when they admire the ethos and professionalism of our set up and the joy of a truly independent cinema. Our guests have been as delighted by our audiences and their questions as we have been to welcome luminaries such as Jane Horrocks, Nick Frost, Ol Parker and Jo Hartley.”

But nothing artistic ever runs smoothly.

Rebecca said: “There have been many mini crises. We had to add an unplanned interval to a film when one of the reels wasn’t delivered in time.

“We almost didn’t have a working satellite for our first live broadcast. And, joyously, we’ve had to manage sell outs. It is never nice to turn people away from the cinema. It’s been a rocky learning curve in the company of a truly brilliant set of colleagues who have always seen the funny side.”

And after 10 years there are still surprises.

“When we announced our intention to set up a cinema, we had one piece of feedback saying ‘It will never work. TV and video killed the movies’. The greatest delight has been the appetite of our audience for a cinema.

“Often we have a clear idea of how successful a film may be, but not always. Some of my favourite films of 2015 were in our bottom 10 - but then we will get 100-150 people to an Iranian or Icelandic film, or a sell out of the Polish film Ida, and that is a joy. It would become boring if we weren’t surprised, though it might be less stressful.”

And what of the future? There are plans to expand. Saffron Screen is saying that’s certainly not all folks.