Former Aardman Animations set designer Sarah Laborde has helped a tiny 36-seat community cinema relaunch in style.
She is a close friend and neighbour of Juliet and David Maclay, who established the little Roxy cinema at their home, a former coaching inn in Axbridge, Somerset.
Turning the public bar area into a period picture palace, with plush red seats from Bristol’s Colston Hall, was a lengthy labour of love for the Maclays, who first opened the cinema six years ago and continue to work on it.
Ms Laborde offered her design skills when the front of house was being transformed with the help of a Big Lottery grant. She helped the Maclays design the typically Art Deco front doors, and she painted murals on either side of the bijou box office. They include bold lion figures, a reminder that the inn was known as the Red Lion for more than 200 years.
The cinema, with vibrant red curtains at the entrance, includes a “snogging sofa” in tribute to the back-row double “lovers’ seat” beloved of the old movie temples.
Another red curtain separates the auditorium from the bar, where Mrs Maclay’s years collecting vintage fabrics has paid off. Old stools and chairs, which were left in the inn when the Maclays bought it, have been re-covered with classic materials, and a cut-out Betty Grable mannequin with various paper costumes decorates one wall.
The cinema, which is run with help from 30 volunteers and a committee of nine, shows films on Friday nights and some Saturday nights, with Saturday matinees for children. It opened its autumn season on Friday with Tortoise in Love, a film entirely funded by and largely made by the people of the Oxfordshire village of Kingston Bagpuize.
Mrs Maclay said yesterday: “We felt it was a film very much in the spirit of this cinema which is run entirely for the benefit of the community. We have also had some Edinburgh Festival acts here on their way to Edinburgh, and it is so lovely and intimate that we think we will introduce quarterly comedy nights.”
There is an eclectic mixture of films for the new season, from The Artist to the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races, Cabaret and My Fair Lady.
On September 22, the town’s Blackberry Carnival Day, the cinema will be open free all day and will show continuous performances of Camelot and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in celebration of the carnival’s myths and legends theme.
There is a modest membership fee, but Mrs Maclay said: “We are a not-for-profit cinema and everyone is welcome, whether they are members or not. It’s a good idea to book. You can turn up and get a seat on the day at your own risk, but it is safer to call first.”
Ring 01934 733095 or visit the website www.axbridgeroxy.org.uk being established this month.