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Martin Fol says local businesses, groups and residents have shown incredible support during lockdowns which have forced the cinema close its screens three times.
“We’ve seen some big fundraising efforts, businesses supporting us and people coming to drop off individual donations and it floors me just how many kind people there are out there,” he says.
“I’ve been at the Plaza for 22 years and I still don’t expect that. People have been amazing in keeping us going right through this.”
The last year has been a tough time for all cinemas and theatres who’ve had to deal with reduced capacities and the rollercoaster of restrictions.
But Martin says all the donations coming in, along with the Plaza’s registered charitable status, means the cinema is going into 2021 with some financially security.
The family and friends of Jacob Billington, who tragically lost his life in a knife attack in Birmingham in September, raised more than £12,000 and a fundraiser by his friend Daniel Taylor has reached almost £20,000.
“We really are so grateful to everyone who has helped us,” says Martin. “One of the big advantages we’ve had over the multiplexes during the last difficult year has been the customer loyalty we’ve been able to count on. We’ve had an independent cinema here since 1939 and people don’t want to lose something like that.”
Martin says the generosity has come in all shapes and sizes over the past months. “One girl gave us the tips from her new job, another lady gave us a cheque for the money she said she would have spent in 2020 and we had a man who walked in with a massive whiskey bottle full of coins. We even had a woman bring in a bag of bottles of spirits which she’d been given for us to raffle.
“Two people bought and donated a large amount of tickets when we had Secret Garden on, and we’ve had customers buy tickets to donate to the local foodbank.”
The Plaza was able to share the love on Christmas Eve and help the foodbank even more when it asked fans coming to watch Elf to bring with them an item to donate.
“Christmas Eve was fantastic for us because we had 760 people coming into the Plaza – the most people we’d had in on any one day in the whole of 2020,” says Martin.
What a strange year #Liverpool. Not our usual end of year highlights video, but we've tried to sum it up in 2 minutes as best we can.
There's been highs and there's been lows, but also more love & kindness than ever. ❤️💙
Here's to the future, & to this great city. 🌇 pic.twitter.com/wD0ga5GVqf
— The Guide Liverpool (@TheGuideLpool) December 30, 2020
“We normally have one screening of Elf but for 2020 we had six! This pandemic was never going to stop Elf, it’s like a tradition at the Plaza, so I dressed up as Father Christmas, and as well as Elf in the morning and afternoon we did It’s A Wonderful Life with mulled wine and mince pies.
“We had our own collection which raised £1,100 and we asked people to bring in donations for the foodbank. By the end of Christmas Eve we were able to take 46 bags there.”
Martin says being an active part of the community is important to the Plaza and it’s one of the reasons why he’s been sharing messages on the canopy outside during lockdowns.
“When Marine FC were playing Spurs I wished them all the best, and on the Monday after the game I said ‘you may not have won but you did Crosby proud’. I think people like the fact that the cinema engages about other things so I’ve also used the canopy to say thank you to all the key workers, nurses, doctors, and St John’s Ambulance.
“When we first closed I said, ‘the lights go down once again, but they will be back’ and as it gets nearer to us reopening I light up the cinema outside and put a message up saying ‘guess who’s coming back?’
“We closed on March 16 and reopened July 31, closed again on November 1 and opened December 6, and then closed on December 30 and obviously we’re still waiting for news.
“I’ve put the ‘guess who’s coming back?’ sign up a few times now, and I can’t wait to get that back up again.”
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