I enjoy little excursions to try out new cinemas and theatres. The Marina is both, and as aptly named, being near one. As a theatre its programme is fairly what I call knees up, with many tribute acts as well as the local orchestral concerts, but I did note that it hosted Equus, which is quite a brave play. I have kept the Marina on my radar since.
I knew it was cheap – currently £5.50 full price – to see a film, and that it is close to bus and rail stations, a few minutes walk along the main shopping street. But I did wonder on a winter Monday how I’d spend the time between the shops closing and the film starting.
I was encouraged that the cafe bar was open all day up to the start of the film, and at a quick reply from the theatre staff who said that (unlike Ipswich’s Film Theatre), they do start at the advertised time, gave the end time, and that I didn’t need to buy a ticket – unlike some sell out provincial film screenings – before the day.
I did buy get my ticket earlier on in the day. There was quite a wait while regulars bought up on the coming season. I thought that a ticket paid for in cash for that evening – and for a film – wouldn’t require registering and would be a quick transaction.
However, their new booking system requires a ‘few details’ to make the tickets come out. The few was actually pretty full – my name and address. It also has to be the one that’s registered to your card, if you pay with one. They said that they could delete it straight away, but I didn’t like having to give it over at all.
We are so often asked to prove who we are, making it easy to trace us and for that information to be abused. It’s also an imbalance, for the person asking for the information rarely has to identify themselves to us.
I said I found that procedure really offputting, and wondered how badly I wanted to see the film there.
I also said that I was fed up of being added to mailing lists for buying one ticket. Another Suffolk cinema emailed me for years and wouldn’t respond to my requests to stop – I had to block them. I’ve had to phone or write to many theatres, and have my successor at my old address take the trouble to forward on unwanted brochures, often from an area I no longer live in. Especially with the net, we can check venues if we want to see their offerings.
One reason that I didn’t buy in advance on the net was that I didn’t want to give out my details or have to create an account.
I dislike the general push in marketing to get more from the people that have already shown you some interest. You are likely to turn it away, not augment and continue it.
So that was a disappointing start to the day. I wondered what the experience of actually seeing a film would be like. It was likely to be my only one.
The website and the personal email I received encouraged if not stipulated prebooking any pretheatre food, suggesting it would be highly busy. But there was barely anyone other than staff – who hung around the automatic doors and made cold drafts – in the cafe. Staff were pleasant but the offerings and decor very simple. The box office and cafe are not in the actual theatre but a new building at right angles to it.
The building itself is one of the best in Lowestoft, although there is not much of note to choose from. It is the only interior of interest which I know of in the town. It’s confusingly hailed as former a Victorian skating rink, but I think that this is an Edwardian theatre on the site of the rink. Its side street, cul de sac positioning makes the illuminated facade less prominent than it might be. Inside is a true traditional old theatre – one of very few in East Anglia (is Bury’s Theatre Royal the only other?). It has two sets of galleries (circles) and a proscenium arch and an interesting ceiling. The film only used the ground floor, the stalls.
But there are no pictures of the interior on the brochure or website.
I entered the theatre for the first time through a side door from the cafe, which meant the experience of those many fronted outside doors which begins an often magical visit was prevented.
Having moved the box office, it meant that there was an empty counter to greet you, and that is a mistake. There is something very vital about front of house being just that.
The only staff in the theatre were security guards. Although they were friendly, their presence again gave an undesirable feel. Security guards expect trouble. They are checking that you’ve paid, not there to serve. They are not exactly welcoming. Again, for a theatre – especially a film night – I was surprised. I don’t think I’ve seen security in a cinema except a London west end premiere, and again, it was disappointing.
They had the adverts running as we entered, so that the official start time meant we were straight into the trailers.
As you’d expect for a traditional theatre, the seats are the old tip up kind. It’s unusual to see a film in those now as comfort has been deemed necessary for custom, although we used to manage and still do when we see live events. But having walked far that day, it was not the seats I needed.
After the film, although still a couple of hours before pub closing time, the audience seemed to disappear. The Marina was offering no more socialising for them, and the night felt cold in both ways, making one’s way along the well lit but deserted shopping area to an equally quiet and slippery station.