THE town council’s decision to take over the Lewes Cinema’s film screening at All Saints was a surprise.
Protests were raised and a petition started to get the decision reversed. This was quickly followed by a council statement that there had been misunderstanding by the objectors.
I decided not to sign the petition until I found out as much as I could from a business viewpoint.
The first conclusion was that the announcement was a PR disaster of the first magnitude, the number of objectors was more than 1,000 which was proof enough.
I asked for “minutes of the meeting covering your decision to eject the Lewes Cinema plus your financial plan covering capital costs, maintenance and operating costs together with anticipated revenue”. I received the minutes for March 19 but no financial plan. The report only gave a list of the decisions recommended.
The report from the steering group had recommendations to meet “ways that the current financial deficit for operating the All Saints Centre (ASC) might be reduced”.
The ASC steering group met on three occasions with the Lewes Film Club (LFC) executive committee members and proposed that council run a community cinema at ASC.
This was done without the knowledge of Lewes Cinema and without being given the opportunity to state their case or discuss possible remedies.
Following the decision on March 19, a letter was sent on March 20 to Lewes Cinema, who indicated they had received the letter. The council had informed Viva Lewes and the Sussex Express and they reported the decision that week.
This shows a lack of business ethics by the council.
The council website under the heading ‘Lewes Community Cinema Project – Facts’ is an attempt to counter the adverse comments which were “inaccurate, ill-informed and sometimes extremely misleading”.
The council seems to paint Lewes Cinema as a shady villain of the piece: “It is a company set up by the proprietor specifically to cover their operation in Lewes – she and her husband operate across Sussex, currently at twelve other venues, in different corporate guises.”
It is something to be applauded. They have paid the hire rate set by the LTC and over the years provided a satisfied clientele with new releases on a fortnightly basis and screenings across Sussex including venues in Lewes DC.
The LTC have applied the “Al Capone” principle, ie Lewes Cinema have a good thing going on our patch now we want to take over.
Finally under the heading – Have we got our sums wrong?– the council don’t think so. They have had advice from the Lewes Film Club and Cllr Catlin and have observed audience numbers for many years.
Frankly, I’m not convinced, For instance, have they checked the cost for two screenings against the cost of twelve screenings over a fortnight? My advice would be to go back and do a lot more homework before taking the plunge. I have signed the petition.
Brian Beck (retired project services