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Thursday 31 July 2014

Toksvig backs Regent Cinema project

Published 21/02/2014|00:12

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An artist's impression of a revamped Regent Cinema in London as Radio 4 broadcaster Sandi Toksvig threw her weight behind a project to restore the UK's oldest cinema

Radio 4 broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has thrown her weight behind a £6 million project to restore the UK's oldest cinema.

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London's Regent Cinema, which celebrates its 118th birthday today, was the first in the UK to host a moving picture show in the UK when it featured a Lumiere brothers' film.

It is widely considered the birthplace of British cinema but has recently been used as a lecture theatre, as part of the University of Westminster.

And now TV and radio star Ms Toksvig, is backing a project which will see it restored to its former glory, describing it as "a significant building", adding the revamped venue would be an asset to the British film industry.

Ms Toksvig said: "This is the birthplace of cinema, where it all started. How fantastic for young people to be able to showcase their work, here, alongside great professionals. This cinema is a place where we can celebrate not just the past but the future.

"This is a significant building and it's wonderful that so many who are passionate about cinema, the history of film or who have a connection with the heritage and future of the university want to be a part of it."

The West End landmark was used by the film-making Lumière brothers to show their first moving picture show on February 21, 1896.

The University of Westminster announced plans to return the historic 19th century cinema in 2012. It has also renewed its appeal for donations, having raised £4 million toward the total restoration bill so far.

Donors are even being given the opportunity to name one of the cinema's 200 seats - 50 have been sponsored already.

Approval for the design, created by Tim Ronalds Architects, was given by Westminster City Council in November 2013.

The project will see the cinema's period features restored alongside the introduction of modern film display technology.

When the work is completed in April 2015, the cinema's 200-seat auditorium will reopen to the public having closed in 1980. Work will begin in April.

Professor Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Westminster, said: "The cinema holds a unique place in the history of film-making and cinema, and it is wonderful to see that 175 years since the founding of our institution, a new and exciting phase in its history will begin.

"When it re-opens, the cinema will offer an outstanding venue in which to nurture future talent as well as provide a place where our students, alumni, industry professionals, and our community can come together and enjoy film and our shared cinema heritage."

The University of Westminster launched a campaign to raise funds for the restoration in March 2012 that has so far brought in £4 million. Donors have included the Heritage Lottery Fund, Quintin Hogg Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and Odeon cinemas.

Film director and university alumnus Asif Kapadia said: "I was proud to study film, video and photographic arts close to the location of the new cinema at the Riding House St campus in the mid 90s, at the time we didn't have a dedicated cinema to screen our films.

"Over the years so many fantastic, iconic cinemas in the UK have closed down or been redeveloped, so this is a marvellous opportunity to restore a venue that played a vital role in the birth of cinema in the UK, and highlights the university's history of innovation in education and learning.

"Bringing the cinema back to life will benefit both current and future students and will provide a platform for independent cinema, short films, documentaries and emerging British talent in the heart of the West End."

Press Association

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