Monday, 20 August 2007

Proud Neil is ready for the Regent's big day of Atonement

When the lights are dimmed at Redcar's Regent Cinema and the regional premiere of the £28million blockbuster Atonement hits the screen on Wednesday, September 5, it will be an extra special moment for one man and his family.

But Neil Bates, once the fresh-faced volunteer who took charge of the reels as an enthusiast teenager and now the manager of the town's independent cinema, promises to do his best to keep control of those emotions.

Determined to be the projectionist on the big night, he says: "I'll think 15 years ago I brought the cinema back from the brink of extinction, now it's actually part of the film world. There will certainly be a sense of emotion, a sense of delivery."

His own personal credits would naturally involve mum Pat, 71, and dad Bob, 74, whose front-of-house dedication remains as strong as ever and whose £5,000 advance of Neil's inheritance allowed him to revive the Regent on August 21, 1992.

He had been part of the Cleveland Cinema Co-operative who ran the cinema for ten years from 1989, then when that folded, he drew up his own one-man rescue plan as he worked part-time in the ice-cream shop next door.

Batman Returns heralded the Regent's return, but it has been a rocky road. " There have been long periods when accounts went down and down, films where you expect to take money fail abysmally and you know it's a stress before the next one.

"I am very proud we have kept the Regent open. Now Atonement will be seen all over the world, it's being tipped as Best British Film of the Year and Redcar's got a starring part."

He still can't resist a chuckle with the memory of when Atonement and its director Joe Wright first came to town. "I was upstairs assembling reels for King Kong and my dad came up and said some people were in the foyer wanting to talk about making a film.

"I thought it'll be more students wanting to do another History of the Regent film, and then when I came down to meet them I thought at least they're mature students!"

He'll admit he didn't recognise director Joe, either. "I wanted to ask, I was curious, then when he came down the second time, I asked everyone what their names were. He said: Joe Wright and I was just about to say, No, I mean your name! Then I realised. But he was so unassuming"

He was equally starstruck by leading man James McAvoy. "He made my day - seeing him having a bottle of beer at the post-film party on the steps of the Regent, so down to earth."

Now he is so excited at the prospect of Atonement coming to life on his screen. "It means an awful lot to me. After being witness to the film and the shooting of those scenes, the premiere brings it full circle as you realise you're not detached from the industry, you're part of it.

"It definitely makes you want to continue. There's been a surge of interest in the past 12months largely due to the interest that's been focussed from the film."

*Redcar and Cleveland Council is organising a day of celebration and nostalgia around the Regent Cinema from 11am onwards on September 5, leading up to the 6pm screening, complete with red carpet.

No comments: