David Williams is the new Manager of The Parade Cinema, currently being created from the old Chapel and Manse on the Parade in Marlborough. He lives in Swindon with his girlfriend Annalisa, a vet. The couple are planning to move to Marlborough when they find the right home.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Port Talbot in Wales, which is where I had my first job in Cinema. I started what I thought would be a Summer job at the local multiplex working Front of House, but loved it so much I ended up staying on and working my way up to Manager.
From there I continued to work for Apollo Cinemas, an independent chain of 13 cinemas. Initially working on the opening of their flagship cinema in London, I stayed for some years and opened several more venues for them. Since then I’ve worked across the country for large companies such as Odeon, and smaller independents such as Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford. The experience I gained at the different companies, which covered both mainstream blockbuster movies and more arthouse films has been invaluable. I’m used to working in venues that provide a wider experience than just watching a film, which will stand me in good stead at the Parade Cinema.
How long have you been working in Marlborough?
I started last November, a good time as the renovation was in the early stages. It’s been quite strange starting in the middle of a pandemic – we’ve been in lockdown most of the time since I got here. I’ve had a chance to wander around Marlborough, but most things have been shut – it will be nice when lockdown eases and I get the chance to see the town at its best, and to meet a lot more people.
What does your role involve?
If you ask Robert Hiscox who is Chair of Image Cinemas the parent company of The Parade, he’d say “Everything!” That’s not quite true, there are a lot of people involved in the project, but at the moment I am the only actual employee.
I’ve a smaller responsibility for the fabric and design of the building, we have a very talented team of architects and designers, but I do get involved in how it is fitted out – so the seating, the bar, the café etc. I have to liaise with suppliers and basically ensure that everything is in place for when we open.
I will be responsible for recruitment. As the plan is to open sometime in the autumn, we will be starting recruitment from June, and will be looking for a several staff who can take on multiple roles.
I will also be closely involved with the marketing of the venue, which will be really important to its success. We are already fairly active on social media channels, where people can follow the progress of the build.
Of course, I will also be involved in the programme of films that are shown. When I worked for a large cinema chain, the manager didn’t get much chance to influence the films on show, but working at a small independent it was part of my job to work with the film booker to get the right programme for the location.
How is it going so far?
We are doing well, and we’re pretty much on schedule. We’re not announcing an exact date for opening yet, as we want to keep some leeway to allow for unforeseen circumstances. It has been lucky that the pandemic has not impacted too much on what we are doing, and we are hoping that things will stay that way.
From my own point of view, it is exciting to be involved at such an early stage and to follow it through.
What can people expect at the new cinema – who is it aimed at?
We are hoping to make the Cinema a real community hub, so it is aimed at everyone, and will be accessible to all. You will find both mainstream new releases as well as smaller more “arthouse” type films. We have plans to show live streamed events from, for example, The National Theatre and The Royal Opera, and will also have regular children’s films. The café will provide good quality locally sourced hot food as well as snacks, and there is going to be a bar for drinks before, during and after showings. Seating inside the cinema will be comfortable with plenty of leg room, and the back couple of rows up and downstairs will be double seats for couples.
A visit to The Parade Cinema should be an experience that is more than just watching a film (although that is possible), it is a whole night out, an event. I’m so excited for the cinema to become a big part of the community.
What do you enjoy most about working in cinema?
I enjoy the people, both working with a great team, and seeing all the people that come to use it. I find it really satisfying to be responsible for helping people have a great night out. Before coming here I had a gap as there was no work as cinemas were shut down due to Covid. I have really missed the buzz of working in the industry, and can’t wait until we open.
Anything you dislike?
In the past it was easy to get caught up in working long hours, but I think that is better now. I actually enjoy working in the evenings, especially on the busiest days. We will work shifts so either a day or evening shift with some overlap.
Are you hoping to have non-film events?
Yes, I hope so. At previous cinemas I’ve worked at I have organised talks and Q & A events with directors and actors. They often have interesting stories to tell about how films get made. I have met a number of big names, but the only one that had me star struck was Ridley Scott, who was full of fabulous stories about his time in the industry. When I was introduced to him, I was tongue-tied and don’t think I made the best impression! Other people that were fascinating were Sam Mendes and Woody Harrelson – it would be great to have some events like these in Marlborough.
Going forward what is your biggest challenge?
Juggling all the different elements at the Parade to ensure people get the best experience – the cinema, the bar, the café and the community space all need to work effectively together. It’s a challenge but one I think will be exciting, a great opportunity.
Are there ways for people to support and get involved with the cinema?
There are indeed – we are currently looking for people to sponsor cinema seats, which will include a year’s membership to the cinema. (We are still developing what the membership scheme will involve, but will include features such as discounts, newsletters, priority booking etc)
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I enjoy mountain biking and swimming, neither of which I can do at the moment. (I’ve yet to find any mountains near Swindon!) It’ll be good when lockdown is lifted and I can explore the cycling routes in the area. I’ve been trying to keep fit in the meantime – like most people we’ve been going for long walks.
I’m also looking forward to trying out places to eat in Marlborough – my girlfriend is Italian, so we always enjoy sampling Italian restaurants.
I enjoy travelling with my girlfriend, and miss being able to go away. Our last trip was to Sicily, which is where Annalisa is from.
What sort of films do you enjoy?
I enjoy a wide range of genres, though I am particularly fond of Sci -fi. If you asked what my favourite films are, two that spring to mind are Blade Runner and Life is Beautiful – two very different movies. I think it’s perfectly possible to enjoy big blockbusters as well as smaller more drama led films. There’s a place for all.
Do you enjoy reading?
Currently the only books I read are business books, my latest being on the wonders of CRM (Customer Relationship Management). The last book I read for pleasure was Hyperion by Dan Simmons, it’s science fiction.
What about music?
I tend to like rock/indie music. I enjoy bands like The Stereophonics, and Foo Fighters (probably giving my age away there!)
The Parade Cinema is due to open in the autumn. For more information on sponsoring a seat or to keep up with progress visit theparadecinema.com You’ll also find them on social media, just search for the parade cinema.