Ritz to reopen as community cinema

An artist’s impression of the Ritz exterior at its opening in February 1937, taken from a colour painting by Stephen Clarke in The Cinemas of Lincolnshire, Mercia Cinema Society, 1997.

The Ritz on Lincoln’s High Street will reopen as a community cinema venue after 15 years of closure.

The venue will reopen as a full commercial cinema, but will also be used as a youth venue and theatre and volunteering hub, with the revamp set to cost around £750,000.

The regeneration project is led by Off The Bench Lincolnshire, an organisation created by former council worker Pete Genders, together with the City of Lincoln Council, J.D. Wetherspoon’s, Wilkin Chapman Solicitors and S Reid Services.

“I’m a Lincoln lad and used to visit the Ritz every week, it holds so many memories for me, and I even had my first kiss in the upper circle,” Genders explained.

“A key aspect of the project is going to be the community involvement, without the help of everyone in Lincoln this project will never work.

“It is our vision for local businesses and local organisations to get involved. The pupils of Bishop King school are going to design the party room.”

The Ritz Cinema opened in 1937, and in 1954 it became the first cinema in Lincoln to have Cinemascope installed.

The Ritz Cinema was taken over by the Rank Organisation in 1956 and was renamed Odeon in 1956.

The Odeon was closed in 1981 and the building remained closed for three years. In 1984, it was taken over by an independent exhibitor who set about renovating the cinema.

The Ritz Cinema was finally closed in March 1996, and in May 1998 it opened as a pub in the J.D. Wetherspoon chain named Ritz, using the foyer and stalls area.

Off The Bench’s project wants to restore the upper circle and projection area and modify it to current standards to include full disabled access.

It is planned for the 450-seat cinema to open by the end of the year, showing classic films and new Hollywood blockbusters from £4.50, with more expensive themed nights.

The Wetherspoons pub on the ground floor will remain open as usual.

Source: Off The Bench | Photo: Mercia Cinema Society