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Monico Movies – a cinema legacy lives on

Rhiwbina’s community cinema, Monico Movies has been screening films in the village for almost three years. However, the history behind its name is far older, writes Alys Jones.

In April 1937, The Monico first opened in Rhiwbina. Its adventure began with the screening of an epic adventure, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. The cinema was a popular place to spend an afternoon enjoying the latest films. It became a part of the community, perhaps no better demonstrated than its use as an air raid shelter during the Second World War.

The Monico provided entertainment in Rhiwbina for 65 years, before closing its curtains for the final time in 2003. In its place today sits a block of apartments.

Though The Monico has been closed for 15 years, its legacy lives on in the name of community cinema Monico Movies. Set up in September 2015 by Harley and Vivienne Jones, the not-for-profit community cinema recruited a group of six community-minded volunteers to join them. Their first film, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, was shown on October 7 2015 in Canolfan Beulah Church Community Centre, where they continue to show films every month. The audience has grown to around 60 to 80.

Monico Movies started with a kit borrowed from Film Hub Wales. Once it became established, it applied for a Lottery grant, and due to its success, it was able to buy its own equipment. The Monico crew has been able to acquire new skills over time as required, which has been crucial to the cinema’s success. They produce advertising posters and print 500 flyers every two months to promote their screenings.

Not only is the name similar, but the experience promised by community cinemas echoes that of Gareth Hill’s nostalgic piece on The Monico. With many independent cinemas closed, community cinemas have appeared across the UK with the aim of making cinema once again a personal, social experience.

Organisations such as Village Hall Cinemas and Cinema For All offer support for local cinemas like Monico Movies to deliver these experiences to communities in the UK. The community in Rhiwbina has been very supportive of the project, with regular volunteers and local shops acting as ticket sellers.

The next showing will be the Oscar-nominated true story Hidden Figures on September 8. Ticket details are available here.

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