Silver Screenings Return to the Strand

East Belfast cinema partners with Specsavers to take older film audiences down memory lane with the relaunch of its Hollywood classics programme

Strand Arts Centre’s popular Silver Screenings programme for older audiences has been given a new lease of life thanks to support from Specsavers Opticians and Audiologists in Connswater. Suspended due to lack of funding, the landmark East Belfast cinema will let film lovers roll back the years once again with titles from Hollywood's golden age every Thursday afternoon.

Having relaunched last week with The Seven Year Itch, the romantic comedy which birthed the famous image of Marilyn Monroe standing above a subway grating as her white dress catches the passing breeze, the forthcoming programme unearths more timeless pictures from film noir to musicals and melodrama.

Cinema-goers can look forward to screenings of The African Queen, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Tootsie, Paper Moon and Singin’ in the Rain.

Mimi Turtle, Strand Arts Centre Chief Executive, said: 'We are thrilled the projectors will roll again on our Silver Screenings thanks to our new partnership with Specsavers. As so many of today’s new film releases are targeted at younger audiences, these Silver Screenings of classic films from primarily the 1940s to 1970s provide the perfect opportunity to engage with this older demographic.

'These screenings are not just a chance to watch a classic film, but also for older audiences to meet and interact, enjoy a social experience and take a trip down memory lane. We give them tea and coffee on arrival, and often have an introductory chat about the genre and social context of the film, with audiences reminiscing and swapping stories of their younger cinema-going days and memories of Belfast at that time.'

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Lynsey Caldwell, Specsavers Connswater director, added: 'As we are just down the road from the Strand Arts Centre, Specsavers Connswater is delighted to be involved with this project that will really benefit East Belfast’s older population. We have a commitment to improving the lives of the community in which we operate, and are very pleased that our support has made these screenings possible once more at Strand Arts Centre. And we’ll be able to actively engage with audiences about services that may benefit them.'

Silver Screenings are expected to be popular with those used to attending cinema or theatre for matinee performances, or local groups looking for something different to do. In the past, Strand Arts Centre has also worked with care homes within East Belfast to bring groups of residents to the screenings. The caring staff reported improved positivity and clarity from those who attended, and participants viewed the cinema outing as the highlight of their week.

A major factor for local nursing homes is the cost associated with transport in bringing groups to the cinema, but additional investment has been secured from Arts & Business NI to make transport affordable for those wanting to bring a group to the Silver Screenings.

Mary Nagele, Arts & Business NI Chief Executive, said: 'Through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland funded Investment Programme, Arts & Business NI invests in mutually beneficial partnerships between business and the arts. We aim to increase private sector investment into the arts by supporting arts organisations in developing sustainable relationships with business. 

'Our involvement in this partnership between Strand Arts Centre and Specsavers Connswater will add value and enable so many more older people to attend and enjoy these weekly screenings.' For more information go to www.strandartscentre.com.

Older film audiences in Belfast might also be aware of a new documentary currently in production which looks back at the city's former Curzon cinema. Funding for the project was raised recently through sales of specially-made t-shirts and prints by Stylografik, a design company based on the Ormeau Road where the much-missed picture house also stood until 2003. Stay up to date ahead of its premiere later this year by visiting www.stylografik.com/curzon.