The Rex Cinema: Historic and well-loved cinema could shut as owner warns 'we need our regular patrons back, and we need them now'
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He said people need to realise the independent cinema “can’t survive on people visiting maybe once or twice a year for the big blockbusters”.
"We need our regular patrons back, and we need them now,”he said.
"I’ve always reckoned that 90 per cent of the films we show would be enjoyed by 90 per cent of our customers if only they would give them a chance.
"I hope people will return and support us so that the cinema can be reprieved permanently.”
Mr Morris reopened the Rex 35 years ago and it has become a much-loved Calderdale institution, attracting patrons from across the borough and beyond.
“But it could all change,” warned Mr Morris.
“We worked hard to build up our audience but now we are facing our biggest challenge yet.
"Since Covid, people just haven’t returned in the numbers we used to get.
" It’s been two-and-a-half years now, and we can’t wait much longer.
"There have been patrons quite recently who have told us this is the first time they have been since Covid - they have just got out of the habit.
"But if people want to retain their local independent cinema, they need to get back in the habit fairly quickly.
"Every now and again we get numbers like we used to but it seems not to last.
"I will keep it going till Christmas – and of course we will have our traditional screening of It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve – but if things haven’t improved significantly by then, we will have to have a serious rethink in the new year.”
The Rex, which opened as the Central Picture House in December 1912, is one of the few remaining, structurally-unaltered and purpose-built cinemas in Britain still showing films.
It closed briefly in 1959, reopening under new owners later that year and becoming a bingo hall in 1964.
Films returned for two years in 1975, after which bingo resumed until 1985.
Mr Morris fulfilled a life-long ambition by taking it on lease as a cinema in 1988 and running it, with a friend, in addition to his full-time job as an electrical engineer.
“Films were in short supply after Covid because film production stopped for the duration, and of course some films went straight to streaming channels,” said Mr Morris.
“And to my surprise, people seemed to remain content to stay at home and watch telly. I thought they would be bursting to get out of the house and back to the things they did before lockdown but it doesn’t seem to have happened.
"I still hear people say ‘there’s nothing like seeing a film on the big screen’ but they need to realise that we can’t survive on people visiting maybe once or twice a year for the big blockbusters.”