Calls to re-open the Ballymoney cinema

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

RENEWED calls have been made for ‘action’ to be taken on the opening of a cinema in Ballymoney.

The clamour for the return of a big screen to the town has come in the wake of the launch of Saturday at the Movies.

The initiative - sponsored by the Ballymoney and Moyle Times - was the brainchild of the Ballymoney Regeneration Company which is encouraging people to take in a movie and a meal in the town when they are Christmas shopping.

A range of films will be screened in the Town Hall and the venture has caught the imagination of local movie buffs.

Some say Ballymoney got its nickname ‘Cow Town’ from the fact that so many cowboy films were shown at the old cinema on High Street.

The old cinema in Ballymoney was called the Palladium and opened in 1937.

It closed down in May 1969 after televisions became more popular and the last film shown was ‘Planet of the Apes’.

Now scores of local film fans are hoping Saturday at the Movies could prove inspirational and ultimately lead to the re-opening of the cinema.

The Times office received over a dozen calls last week from people in support of a Ballymoney-based cinema.

And T Wales from the town wrote:

“Every so often in the Times we read about Ballymoney and its history of being a movie hotspot (which is true).

“We had the best ‘Picture House’ (cinema) in the north, in its day, with a real balcony. But you only have to look at it now, what a disgrace!

“If someone had some imagination and gave this famous old building a bit of a tidy and some colour, not a drab dark grey colour, it would let visitors to Ballymoney see what we used to have.

“Better still, make it what is used to be, a real and famous cinema, and put Ballymoney back on the map as a town with some life in it.

“This building is a part of Ballymoney’s real and lively history.

“Why don’t we let Coleraine and Ballymena see what we are made of?”

In 2009 a Facebook page was set up entitled ‘Re-Open The Cinema’.

Supporters said it would add a new vibrancy to the town especially for young people while critics said it might be hard to sustain a cinema in the town considering Ballymoney’s proximity to cinemas in Coleraine and Ballymena.

The filming of the movie ‘Cup Cake’ in Ballymoney put the whole concept of films and movies back into the public consciousness in the town at the time.

On the Facebook site several comments were made with one person saying a cinema would give Ballymoney ‘back a bit of style’.

Another said: ‘Bring back the cinema. It will give the Toon something more than coffee shops’.

Liam Neeson could be drafted in to officially open the cinema, said one poster.

Another person said they didn’t really care where a new cinema would go but the old site would be as good a place as any.

The Saturday movies, to be screened in the Town Hall, are Toy Story 3 (U) with Woody, Buzz and the rest of the toy box friends, at 11am on 10th December, and at 2pm there is a screening of a selection of films from the Leslie Hill 2011 Pigeon Field film festival.

Polar Express (PG) provides lots of adventure on an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole at 11 am on 17th December.

That afternoon, at 2pm, there is a selection of highlights from the cinefilms of the late Charlie McAfee.

Local man, Charlie, recorded the passing of familiar Ballymoney characters and places on film for over 50 years.

The special film deals are priced at £1.00. Doors open 20 minutes before show starts, and there will be an movie tuck shop, serving treats, including candy floss and popcorn.

T Wales added: “It is a pity we don’t have more people like Charlie McAfee and his brother. They were only interested in the real Ballymoney as it used to be (class).

“Hopefully, his works of art (films) will go to DVD some day and people will see Ballymoney as it used to be, a great part of our history.”