Lights, camera, action


BACK TO WORK Kieran Ruddy of The W Cinema serves Darina Moran before a showing of The Matrix last Friday night in Westport.

Westport’s W Cinema is back open and a refuge when the rain falls

Ger Flanagan

WHEN the heavens are opening in this part of the world, ways and means of passing an evening during the summer months are very limited. But a trip to the cinema was always an enjoyable commodity in life before Covid-19.
Until earlier this month, that option was out of bounds under the government regulations and only when the weather took a turn for the worst over the last number of weeks, did people truly miss the big screen.
So as the rain lashed down last Friday evening, The Mayo News took a trip to The W Cinema in Westport to catch a flick, full of excitement and hope of beginning to experience a reality that was somewhat normal.
The new reality of The W Cinema is like most other public places; the sanitisation stations, one-way systems, stickers and distancing markers on the floors and walls, helpful staff, and all the other jigs and reels that go with standard requirements.
An encouraged online and pre-booking system automatically allocates seats to bums whilst conforming to social distance requirements.
Those requirements are having quite a big impact in the day-to-day running of the business, general manager Cristoph Gasztych tells The Mayo News, such as a max crowd of 50 people allowed in their biggest screen at one showing. While the smaller 120 seat screen can only hold less than 25 customers before the doors are closed.
Despite the limited numbers Cristoph has said that business has been trucking away nicely, particularly with the inclement weather, and families are making using of the facility, both locals and tourists.
“Obviously we’re not as busy as last summer, but when it’s wet outside people come to the cinema, and if it’s sunny it will be quiet,” he said. “So we’re weather dependent really and people are happy to come in and see a movie.
“Westport is such a great town with a lot to do when it’s sunny, but when it’s wet there’s not as much to do and that’s why I think the cinema is a great add on for the town. The people coming in seem to be in good form and not too scared and of course we’re trying our best to make sure they feel as comfortable as they can be.”

Classics on the big screen
Another obstacle for The W Cinema and the industry in general is the lack of new movies being shot and produced right now during the pandemic, with companies pushing release dates forward towards the new year. It’s a challenge The W Cinema is overcoming by showing old classic movies, such as The Matrix (our choice for the night – 7/10!), Superman from the 1970s, Back to the Future, various popular childrens’ movies, or the more recent class, The Joker.
They’re deliberately avoiding movies that are freely available online with the aim of resurrecting that true cinema experience.
“Of course you can watch a lot of movies on Netflix now on big 50 inch TVs,” Cristoph added. “But the cinema is all about the experience. Under the current guidelines you can get out and socialise with a few friends, have a glass of wine and some fresh popcorn even, and enjoy the cinema experience in front of a big screen. I know people have to be more careful, but it’s great that people can do that again.”
It was a cinematic experience this reporter thoroughly enjoyed, and missed. Particularly the delicious popcorn!
Whilst the night we attended was quiet in terms of viewers, the feedback from the local community has been positive and has made them optimistic about the future.
“Back in March and April we were very worried we would not get our customers back,” added Cristoph. “But thankfully that has not been the case.
“And of course it is going to be difficult for us this year, but people seem to be very happy and we are receiving a lot of positive message on Facebook from people saying they are delighted we’re open, and that’s what we need.”

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