Two popular theatres in County Durham will reopen their doors next week, ready to welcome visitors back with a new look.
Durham County Council has completed renovation work at the Gala Theatre, in Durham, and the Empire Theatre, in Consett, which will both reopen on Monday, June 21.
Over the last year, Consett’s Empire Theatre saw a £823,000 refurbishment of the auditorium, toilets, and front of house area, as well as a new stage and technical equipment.
Although no longer in operation, local group Friends of Empire donated £11,500 from leftover memberships and donations to help towards the purchase of furniture and a new counter front.
Meanwhile, the Gala Theatre in Durham has had a £600,000 refurbishment, fitted with new flooring and seating in the auditorium, as well as a new-look box office, display screens, signage and furniture.
Both venues will reopen with a brand-new menu for their respective cafes, with food being served from 9.30am to 5.30pm at the Gala Theatre, and from 10am to 3pm at the Empire Theatre.
The reopening of the theatres has been carefully planned in line with guidance from Step 3 of the government’s roadmap and are not affected by the announcement to delay Step 4.
To celebrate reopening, Gala Theatre will be screening the Academy-Award winning film Nomadland, which scooped best director, best picture and best actress at this year’s Oscars.
It will also be showing Peter Rabbit 2, sequel to the family favourite blockbuster animation with James Corden voicing the title character.
The Empire Theatre will be opening with the live-action Disney film Cruella, starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, on June 21. The film will also be shown at Gala Theatre from June 25.
And from June 25, Empire Theatre will be screening Dream Horse, an inspiring film based on a true story.
A small selection of socially distanced live performances will commence at Gala Theatre from Friday, July 9, with the production of Damned United. A wider programme of live performances will resume in September.
All screenings are being sold in advance to ensure social distancing in the auditorium and seats will be allocated to ensure a safe distance away from the nearest group.
As per national guidance, face coverings will be needed while watching the film unless audiences are eating or drinking. Visitors must also maintain a safe social distance around the building and when waiting to enter a screening.
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We’re delighted to have our two main theatres open once again and with it be able to welcome visitors with a brand-new look. Reopening our theatres is a key part of our commitment to cultural-led regeneration.
“Creative industries contributed more than £116 billion to the UK economy in 2019, and the arts are set to play a crucial role in the county’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“By welcoming visitors back to the Gala and Empire theatres, we can help support the recovery of local businesses, especially the hospitality and retail sector, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.”