1919 - Walter Hill,
draper and gentlemen’s outfitter, commissions Aldeburgh builder W.C.Reade to
build an auditorium and The Aldeburgh Picture House opens in the summer of
1921 - Aldeburgh
Cinema and Amusements (ACA) is born – the Cinema and Jubilee Hall join forces
under new joint management. In the 1920s the price of seats for adults is 1
shilling and sixpence.
1924 - The ACA tries to
lease Leiston Cinema, but the approach is declined.
1924 - 1965 - The
Cinema is under the management of Raymond
Rayner, who lives with his wife in the flat above the Cinema. At first, he
leases the cinema, then in 1951 buys
it from ACA.
1942 - Four bombs fall
close to Aldeburgh Cinema, killing civilians and soldiers, but the Cinema
survives unscathed, and stays open throughout World War II.
1965 - Stephen Reiss, wartime
intelligence officer, distinguished art historian and manager of Aldeburgh
Festival, persuades Benjamin Britten and
his partner Peter Pears to join
others in forming a consortium to buy the Cinema after Raymond’s death. Stephen
Reiss is engaged to choose the films. Benjamin
Britten pledges money and support to keep Aldeburgh Cinema at the heart of
the town. Lord and Lady Cranbrook, David and Letty Gifford also become
1971 - Stephen Reiss resigns,
and the Cinema struggles on with mounting debts under temporary management.
1974 - 1995 - Letty Gifford, Mayor of Aldeburgh, staunch pioneer of women’s rights, co-founder
of the Jubilee Opera, and friend of Benjamin
Britten and Peter Pears, agrees
to become Chair of Aldeburgh Cinema and is its backbone for the next twenty
years. The Cinema becomes a hub of artistic life in the town. Letty makes a name for herself in the
film world by tackling distributors in London, and demanding that popular films
are shown in Aldeburgh as early as – or even before - the top London venues. She creates the Supporters Club, now known as
the Friends of Aldeburgh Cinema, where people pledge financial backing. The annual
Cinema audience increases to 32,489 – up by more than 10,000 in four years.
1961 - 2015 - Susan Harrison is a full and part-time member of staff whose talent at involving
many in the town in the smooth running of the cinema is legendary. Her outstanding service to the Cinema is
recognized in 2012 with the award of a British Empire Medal.
1964 - 2016 - Neville Parry is Chief Projectionist, despite also holding down a job in the East
Suffolk Ambulance Service. A talented engineer and innovator, he keeps the
projection equipment in excellent order, and works part-time until his death in
1994 - 2003 - Felicity Ann Sieghart takes over the running of the Cinema. She modernises the box office,
improves the Cinema’s finances, and initiates the celebrated Aldeburgh Cinema Documentary Festival.
1995 - present -Together with her
documentary-maker daughter-in-law Molly
Dineen, Felicity Ann Sieghart launches
DocFest, hosted by writer Craig Brown. He is at the helm for the
next 15 years. Actress and local resident Diana
Quick takes over in 2010, and in 2017 film executive Jill Green becomes the festival’s Artistic Director. The DocFest
has become an essential and much-loved part of Aldeburgh’s cultural calendar.
2009 - 2016 - Tim Rowan Robinson becomes Chairman of the Cinema, updating its management and
governance. His work leads to Aldeburgh
Cinema becoming a charity – the Aldeburgh Cinema Trust.
2017 - present - Charlie Laughton-Scott assumes the role of Chairman of the Cinema.
2017 -The Cinema becomes Visitor
Information Centre for Aldeburgh
2018 - Snape Box Office returns as
2019 -The Cinema becomes the box
office for Jubilee Hall.