- Sector: Leisure
- Region: South West England
Cinema-going is a central element of the UK leisure market, but not every town can sustain a huge multiplex. The opportunity to create smaller movie theatres to cater for such places is what Merlin Cinemas specialises in, bringing the magic of the movies to smaller towns and communities where the major cinema chains are not present.
"The company operates in old, traditional and sometimes beautiful cinemas, many of which have been saved and restored or, in the case of some historic buildings, converted into cinemas," says Geoff Greaves, Managing Director. "We offer a comfortable modern experience while retaining as much of the original fabric of the building as possible."
The company was started in 1990 at the Savoy Penzance in Cornwall, which is probably the oldest continuously operating cinema in Britain, having never closed or been used for any other purpose since it was built in 1912. Expansion over almost three decades has left Merlin Cinemas with a presence across the country, although there are still plenty of opportunities to pursue. Its experience to date has shown that establishing a cinema at the heart of a town centre can help to maintain a vibrant local economy, and its screens now attract more than a million customers a year.
Since 2011, the company has been focused on digital cinema projection, which has freed it from the challenges of moving large physical prints around the country, given it a greater access to more of the latest films, and enabled it to show events live by satellite from anywhere in the world, – a key growth area for cinemas these days.
"Going digital has made it possible for audiences to enjoy opera, ballet and theatre in even the most remote locations," says Geoff. "Whilst the technology was expensive to install, it offers a higher-quality on-screen projection."