Two – apparently rival – public-meetings called to discuss the future of the Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema are, it seems, due to be held almost simultaneously on Monday March 20th – at two different venues in the town.
One meeting has been convened by Cllr Philip Rapier (Labour St Augustines) – a former Mayor of Penarth who is holding his meeting on Monday March 20th at the Pilot Pub, Queens Road, Penarth at 19.30.
Cllr Rapier declares “I am an activist and lifelong member of a leading Entertainment Trade Union. I therefore have “cross party” lobbying experience at the Welsh Assembly with Arts Spokespersons. I am experienced in campaigning vigorously on behalf of both performers and audiences within S. Wales. I am experienced in campaigning vigorously on behalf of both performers and audiences within S. Wales.”
The rival meeting is being convened by local resident and public relations executive Nicki Page at the “Stanwell Road Baptist Church Hall” (which is actually in Victoria Road, next door to the Paget Rooms) on Monday March 20th commencing at 18:30.
Ms Page says she has been monitoring the affairs of Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd for 7 years and pouring through the published versions of the company’s accounts.
At the moment neither party seems prepared to merge the two meetings and co-ordinate a joint approach to propose a way forward for the Pier Pavilion Cinema.
The Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema had been in operation 7-days-a-week since 2013 but was closed indefinitely on March 6th 2017. At the same time, a revised schedule was introduced for the rest of the Pier Pavilion which is now closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Both the Pier Pavilion – and the Pavilion Cinema inside it – are run by the “charity” Penarth Arts and Crafts Ltd (a.k.a. PACL) – a “not for profit” company. chaired by Professor Tony Hazell .
Amongst the current trustees/directors of PACL is the current Mayor of Penarth, Cllr Mike Cuddy (Labour St Augustines) who sits on the board as the official representative of Penarth Town Council – of which he is the Leader.
Cllr Cuddy has, so far, not made any comment about the closures of either the Cinema or the Pavilion.
In 2015 the Labour-controlled Penarth Town Council, under Cllr Cuddy, used £35,000 of local residents’ money – derived from an increased Penarth Town Council Tax precept – to start-up its own competing rival cinema at the council-owned Paget Rooms [ the so-called “Paget Rooms Event Cinema”] – an innovation which may prove to have adversely affected the economics of the Pavilion Cinema and might not have assisted the long-term viability of either enterprise.
Apparently it never occurred to Penarth Town Council to pool resources and consider establishing its Live Event Cinema – which shows live satellite transmission of West End theatre productions – at the Pier Pavilion. The council’s rival Paget Rooms Live Event Cinema was supposed to make a profit of almost £4,000 last year. In fact it made a profit of only £730 in the 2015/16 financial year.
Now former broadcasting executive Andrew Jones (who organised an on-line petition attracting 1,500 signatories protesting about the peremptory closure of the Pier Pavilion Cinema ) has now published an open letter in the form of an email sent to all interested parties. It reads as follows:-
To: Lis Burnett Lis Burnett (Cllr) firstname.lastname@example.org MKellyOwen@valeofglamorgan.gov.uk email@example.com and 8 more…
CC firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
To : All Penarth local councillors Vale of Glamorgan Mr N Moore Leader Vale of Glamorgan Council, Rob Thomas MD Vale of Glamorgan Council
Richard Bellamy – Head of Wales Region – Heritage Lottery Fund
Sarah Rutherford – Operations Officer – Independent Cinema Office
Mr Stephen Doughty MP
It is now almost 3 weeks since PACL made the controversial decision to close the Penarth Pier Pavilion Cinema for the foreseeable future. In just over 2 weeks the online petition that I set up asking PACL to reconsider their decision has amassed more than 1500 names.
It is a matter of record from the huge number of comments made on the petition site the strength of feeling locally in support of the cinema from regular attendees as well as very relevant comments about issues concerning the operation of the Pavilion to date and useful suggestions for the future.
Part of the reason why I started the petition was my own personal dissatisfaction with the explanation given by PACL for the cinema’s sudden closure in its statement on the Pavilion website dated February 22nd 2017. Specifically that the cinema would close until after the summer for the reason given :-
Cinema going reduces significantly during the spring and summer months to such an extent that, for 2017, we have decided that the best use of our resources during this period is to concentrate on increasing activities in the Pavilion.
There appears to be no real evidence to support this sudden closure and makes no sense commercially.
Probably as a result of the outcry locally via the petition, local news websites and other means PACL were then forced to issue a further statement (March 9th 2017) which quite frankly only makes the situation worse and has led to even more outcry locally :-
….we have recognised that, to ensure the long-term future of the Cinema and of the Pavilion as a whole, we need to make some temporary changes to our operations.
The last three years have shown quite clearly that with the limited capacity of the 68 seat Cinema the income from ticket sales will never be enough to cover the costs of running the Cinema. As a registered charity we cannot continue to provide facilities that are uneconomical as is the case with the Cinema. We have therefore drawn up a plan to secure additional independent financial support from a variety of possible sources. This will enable us to maintain the Cinema in the longer term and to keep ticket prices at an affordable level. Over the coming months we will regularly review progress on our future plans and hope very much to be able to re-open the Cinema sooner rather than later.
In response to this I would point out the following:-
1) Surely the funders of the project required a robust business plan assessment which would have included a viability appraisal of the cinema?
2) That a commercially astute person would understand that in operating the cinema the income derived is not just from ticket sales but also advertising, bar, café and retail sales associated with people attending a screening.
3) The marketing of the Pavilion ( including the cinema) appears to have been extremely limited – again borne out by countless comments made and the fact that the 2015 accounts show that just £60 was spent on marketing ( down from almost £4.5K the previous year). Even the most basic advice in terms of marketing of an independent cinema on the ICO website appears to have been ignored.
4) PACL is now saying that the cinema is uneconomical yet there appears to be no evidence to support this. If PACL do not wish to – or cannot – run the cinema then surely handing it over to someone who can make it work ( eg Chapter?) rather than allow a grant funded state 0f the art facility to be mothballed
5) PACL say they now have a plan to secure additional financial support. What does this mean? Do they mean additional grants in addition to the huge sums received to date ( including almost £200k from the Coastal Communities Fund for staffing etc to increase visitor numbers). Who is likely to provide additional grant funding to an organisation that has already received extensive support and does not appear to be clearly demonstrating to the public that it is the appropriate custodian of this ‘jewel in the crown’ of Penarth based on performance to date and lack of engagement and transparency with the community on which it depends for business.
The concern is that our cinema is being used a scapegoat in a scenario with PACL which seems to raise legitimate concerns over management rather than the viability of the cinema
There is growing concern about the track record of PACL Trustees in managing such an operation and questions have been raised about the commercial skills on the current Board of trustees and their experience of managing similar operations.
There are questions being raised in Penarth about the apparent lack of local accountability on the part of PACL who received the funding to develop the Pavilion on the back of extensive community consultation, engagement and support. However whilst it is clear that discussions are taking place between the relevant parties ( PACL, Heritage Lottery Fund, BLF, Vale of Glamorgan Council and the Independent Cinema Office) there does not seem to be anyone engaging with the community who regularly use the cinema to seek their views on a way forward that is supported by the community. Whilst I recognise that many discussions will be confidential for commercial reasons, a complete wall of silence is not helping.
Local MP Stephen Doughty, in an e-mail response to a constituent, has confirmed he has had “a number of helpful and constructive discussions with both the Vale Council and PACL directly, and have offered my help where it would be useful, to ensure recent challenges are addressed”. He goes on to say, “I know that PACL will welcome all offers of support and time to ensure that the current challenges are addressed” and that “I am happy to meet with any residents who wish to discuss concerns about the Pavilion – and would encourage them to contact me”.
Individuals and local organisations have come forward to offer help but it appears that there has been no response. Surely this is not good and at a minimum it would be useful to engage with the community – certainly representatives from it – at an early stage in the process of ensuring that our much-loved cinema is re-opened asap?
I look forward to hearing from you