Manager of 107-year-old cinema set to celebrate 30 years in charge

Wayne Burns, manager of Leiston Film Theatre, pictured with assistant manager Becky Nichols

Wayne Burns, manager of Leiston Film Theatre, pictured with assistant manager Becky Nichols - Credit: Charlotte Bond

The story of how a cinema manager took on an historic, but neglected cinema and turned it into one of the country’s most cherished independent venues could make a movie in its own right. 

But this particular tale is no work of fiction as this month Wayne Burns will be celebrating 30 years in charge of Leiston Film Theatre with a screening of the 1957 Ealing classic The Smallest Show on Earth. 

He joined the 107-year-old High Street cinema in 1992 at the age of 22 and has spent three decades nurturing the venue’s owners and supporters through the cinema’s transformation from a neglected ‘flea-pit.’ 

His love for cinema dates back to an open day at Aldeburgh cinema when he was a teenager and he was initially employed as a projectionist at the seaside cinema in the 1980s, fulfilling a childhood dream and being trained in the art of screening 16mm and 35mm films. 

In 1992, Leiston Town Council, which had saved the Leiston Picture House from closure in 1976, advertised for an assistant manager and Mr Burns was offered the job, although he was reluctant to take on the task due to the amount of work that was needed. 

Wayne Burns will be celebrating 30 years in charge at Leiston Film Theatre

Wayne Burns will be celebrating 30 years in charge at Leiston Film Theatre - Credit: Archant

He said: “Initially, I had grave reservations about joining the Film Theatre. It was very evident that there was an awful lot that had to be done, for the venue to offer an experience that the paying public expected.  

“Thankfully, the formation of the Film Theatre Support Club in 1992 and a renewed resolve from the town council to see Leiston’s cinema reach its full potential, meant that we were able to slowly turn our vision into an eventual reality.” 

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A substantial programme of repairs and refurbishment was undertaken and many big films were screened, while there was also an improved selection of live entertainment, including an annual pantomime which proved popular. 

In 1994, he took over as film theatre manager and the projection and sound equipment was upgraded, the foyer enlarged and new toilets were introduced. 

Since then, the number of customers has increased considerably and in 2019, the venue recorded its highest number ever. 

The anniversary screening will be taking place on May 25 and will be followed by tea/coffee and anniversary cake.  

Tickets are now available from the box office on 01728 830549 and at www.leistonfilmtheatre.co.uk.