For a cinephile, cinemas are places of worship (hence the title) and they are the places we chose to spend our lives. In the hallowed hallways filled with posters, the smell of popcorn trickling down the aisles and the clink of projectors humming away in the back; for a cinephile, a cinema is church. But, the endless reproduction of chains means the heart of cinema is puffing out. Luckily, there are independent cinemas that are practically paved with gold.
Needing your support though is The Ritz in Lincoln. Appealing to cinema fans of all ages and genres, The Ritz hosts charity fundraising events to get the glorious building, a hub of entertainment in the past, back to its excellence.
I’m With Geek caught up with Mr Ritz, a.k.a Pete Genders, the manager of the cinema.
Going back into the Ritz, after it had laid dormant for well over a decade was a moment, I had dreamt of for years. What would it be like? Would the seat I always sat in as a child still be there? Would it smell the same? And would it evoke images and memories of my solitary teenage years when I spent every free moment I had sat in that dark auditorium escaping my mundane teenage existence into the magical world of cinema?
The first time I climbed those stairs again was a pitch black and cold November night, well after 10pm. There were no lights, no electricity, and all I had to light my way was the small dim light of my mobile phone. As I reached the top of the stairs I was instantly transported to the cathedral of my youth, I didn’t see the tables and chairs rotting from the prolonged damp, I didn’t see the plaster falling off the walls and broken shutters above the bar. I didn’t see the smashed windows and the broken neon interior sign-age. What I saw was a bustling cinema, I smelt the popcorn and heard the ticket machine rolling out ticket after ticket. I heard the rip as the ticket stubs we’re torn off buy the beautiful usherettes I had admired as a teenager and I saw a huge screen projected with film after film and memory after memory.
The road ahead has proved to be one of the most difficult journeys of my life, far more difficult than I could of ever thought possible. My relationship with the building has gone from the deepest of love to the worst resentment and back to misty eyed love again. I’ve experienced every emotion possible with this project, I’ve met some fantastic new people, and made some spectacular new friends along the way, but at the same time I’ve lost some dear friends and treasured colleagues during the difficulties of this process, and at points almost lost my mind as well. I’ve gone from spending every moment possible in the building researching new areas, finding new rooms, planning and designing how it will look when restored and documenting the process with a film crew to locking and bolting the doors and not stepping foot in the place for weeks on end, at my lowest points I have even avoided driving past the place for fear of negative emotions taking hold on me.
The Ritz was my first love and will always hold that special place in my heart, I could never desert her and likewise she will never let me go to get on with my life until I have restored the cinema back to its former glory. I'm two years into the restoration now, and I am in there every day doing what I can, working on the plans to restore the upper floors. There's also developing the activities and projects that take place and working with my fantastic team putting on great events.
The Ritz. It’s a journey, I can’t follow alone and we have never once pretended I could. It’s a journey I follow with the most amazing and diverse team or sublime wonderment!
We are a primarily a bunch of film fanatics with a wide range of skill sets from management, business, fundraising, administration, design, cinematography and editing, customer service, event management but more importantly… we are a group of friends that work, eat, play, and learn together. We class ourselves as The Ritz Family and this shines through in our events as we work so well and so closely together.
Fortunately, being so close we can love and support each other through the difficulties of running a small independent cinema in these difficult times or a double dip recession whilst at the same time we are strong enough to let each other know when we are going wrong, when we are being selfish and when we are making mistakes – our bond as the Ritz Family lets us kick each other in behinds when needed and not cause any friction!
We make mistake of course but its not about the mistakes we make, its about how we deal with them once they have happened, and wherever possible, this is done with the support of a great team.
Insanity! Well, the reasons in my answer to your first question. For me, The Ritz was the cathedral of my youth – I have never felt more at home anywhere then I do here. Every part of me is seeped into the walls and foundations of this building and this building is an extension of my character and personality
Why are independent cinemas important?
They are incredibly important as where else will you learn and love these movies – going to the cinema should be a full mind blowing experience that grabs and draws on all your senses – you should be able to walk into a cinema and totally escape reality for a few hours, immerse yourself in the film and become part of it, even if just for a few hours. If you're watching Harry Potter, you need to feel like you are in Hogwarts. If you're watching Reservoir Dogs you need to feel like a gangster!
What do you love about film?
What don’t I love about film? I love the very fact when watching a film, I can be anything I want to be, I love the fact that when I come out my mind has been completely altered and my perceptions changed forever. I love that a simple moving image can make me smile and laugh but can also make me cry and feel desperate – I love the full scale emotions that both film and Ritz give me eachand every day.
But most of all I love that film and in particular independent cinema has given me a live that I can lead to the full and a full time job! – This kind of thing only happens in a film! And yet it is the love of films that has made it happen for me!
This is an impossible question as the answer changes depending on my mood so instead I'll go with a Top Five, much like John Cusack’s Rob from High Fidelity..
My desert island, all-time, top-five most memorable films are..
The Sure Thing
Stand By Me
The Count Of Monte Cristo
And Dom Hemingway
The first two as they evoke memories of my childhood, my teenage years were literally identical to Stand By Me to the point where reality and movie memory get confused for me and I no longer know which is real. Did I grow up in small town Maine and take a journey with my friends to see a dead body? Or was that the film? The Count Of Monte Cristo as it simply divine and one of the greatest pieces of cinema magic.
Pulp Fiction as it was one of the first films that made me go WOW – this is awesome, there is nothing else I want to do in my life other then work around films in some way.
And most recently my fifth in the list is always my current fave, my current obsession – Dom Hemingway – Jude Law in an absolute triumph of a role mirroring my current struggles and difficulties in life. – A tour de force of brilliance in film making.
There have been so many fantastic events, our Labyrinth Masquerade Balls are simply divine, our 80’s Prom Nights as such good fun but one of the events that truly stands out for me was out Willy Wonka event, the original Gene Wilder masterpiece – we transformed the building into a chocolate factory with a troop of Oompa Lumpa’s, rivers of sweets and chocolaty goodness. There was even Willy Wonka himself and of course – myself as the villainous Arthur Slugworth, intent on stealing every single every lasting gobstopper throughout the building!
Once it is up and running, will you continue the stellar events?
Without a doubt – our unique events are what make the Ritz, the Ritz – that are what make us unique and individual and they are what make us loved by so many.
What are your future plans for the cinema?
As we get closer to end of the renovation my plans revolve mainly around having her ready for new releases fas well as the classics we screen already.
We are constantly working on increasing the size of Picture Paradise, our memorabilia and collectors store and we will continue to increase production of movie props and collectables via the creature workshop which is steady source of valuable income for the renovation work
How big do you expect The Ritz to become?
Gosh, who knows? As long as we are big enough to just keep going as the Ritz Family and keep the Ritz dream alive, passing on the passion we have for film and film events to others….
As long as I can do that – I would be a happy man!
I don’t need to big, I just need to keep the dream alive!
Thank you very much to Pete and the team behind the Ritz. Trust me, their events and passion is stellar!
Buy a Brick at The Ritz now!