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Cinema manager celebrates 30 years in charge

Wayne Burns outside Leiston Film Theatre
Wayne Burns has managed Leiston Film Theatre for the last 30 years [John Fairhall/BBC]

The manager of Suffolk's oldest cinema has described his job as "a proper adventure", as he marks his 30th anniversary.

Wayne Burns is the third person to have served for three continuous decades in the role at Leiston Film Theatre.

He joined the venue in 1992 as the assistant manager before stepping up on 1 April 1994.

Mr Burns said he was "very lucky to work in this wonderful environment".

Leiston Film Theatre in the early 20th century
Leiston Film Theatre has stood in the town since 1914 [Leiston Film Theatre]

"To think it's been 30 years since I walked in this building - it's just flown by, it's been a proper adventure and really good fun," he said.

Mr Burns has seen a wealth of changes, including major redevelopment of the cinema with help from the Friends of Leiston Film Theatre.

"The transformation is the absolute highlight on my 30 years," he explained.

"We have embraced the new, but we have still held on to a lot of the original charm."

Many original elements of the 1914 theatre can still be seen, including seats towards the front of the theatre.

Renovations include new walls, carpets, some new seating and roof repairs following leaks.

Leiston Film Theatre in 1914
The cinema has gone through major redevelopment since 1914, but still retains many original elements [Leiston Film Theatre]

Mr Burns has many great memories from his 30 years.

"I always remember showing the original Home Alone where through the thick projection wall you could hear the roar of people's laughter," he said.

"We also had a couple who had their first date here and then got married here and had their first child christened here. We think their second child will be christened here next year.

"I only found out when my late father passed away that my mum and dad had their first date here."

It has not always been an easy ride, with Mr Burns describing life after the Covid-19 pandemic as "a challenge".

With the rise of streaming services providing another obstacle, Mr Burns is not concerned.

"There's no way you can watch a film like [James] Bond in your living room, no matter how swanky your TV is," he added.

Peter Free operating the theatre equipment
Peter Free managed the cinema prior to Mr Burns and similarly worked for 30 years [Leiston Film Theatre]

Mr Burns has described his time at the cinema as "something of a marriage".

"There are days where we have a little argument every now and again, but on the whole I'm madly in love with it."

The two managers to have also completed 30-year stints include William Hammick, who ran the venue through both world wars.

Mr Hammick started in 1915 and would have seen the infancy of cinema when films were projected on to a whitewashed wall and accompanied by a pianist.

Peter Free was manager from 1964 before retiring in 1994 and handing over to Mr Burns.

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