By Chris Jaffray
A couple left the London rat race to transform a derelict pub into the UK’s smallest cinema – despite not even being film buffs.
David, from Boston and Juliet Maclay, from Cheshire, moved back to the country after two and a half years in New York in the 1990s but found south London life wasn’t for them.
Instead David, an artist, 72, and Juliet, who used to work in marketing and design in the aerospace industry, 61, settled for a property in the picturesque village of Axbridge, Somerset – but when they bought the 18th century coaching inn they discovered it was in a state of disrepair.
After 10 years of transforming the rest of the property into a liveable family home, the couple had forgotten about an empty room at the back of the building which had a sloping floor as it was previously used to feed and water houses.
But after they discovered vintage red velvet seats were being sold by a concert hall in Bristol which was being renovated , they decided to set up their own community cinema in 2007.
Now, the picture house – one of the smallest in the UK – seats 34 guests who pay £3.50 to watch 50 films from a range of genres a year with around three showings a week.
Juliet said: “We had talked about making a cinema out of the room because of the sloping floor, but no one really believed it.
“But a friend saw that Colston Hall was being renovated and we bought two truckloads of the seats.
“We weren’t particularly film buffs but we wanted a community cinema.
“We are design people, it’s all about the space for us.
“There are thousands of community cinemas in the UK, but all but two or three do not have any premises.
“We are one of about two or three which have a proper cinema experience.
“We are design people, not cinema buffs.
“We wanted an intimate cinema experience and we definitely have that.
“The sort of films that do best for us are
“We have about 200 people signed up as supporters.
“There are other cinemas in the Cheddar Valley but we dont’ compete with them, we don’t show films when they come out.
Juliet and David also decided to rent out the whole of their six-bedroom property on AirBnb at weekends – giving guests the chance to experience the cinema room privately.
Juliet added: “Anyone who is a supporter of the cinema can put a film on, we show about 50 films a year and put on two or three times a week.
“People buy tickets at the box office and we show films in Spanish, German, French and Italian.
“We do have people from a long away to visit us, we are a cinema for the whole of the Cheddar Valley.
“It is a social thing and apart from us, is all run by volunteers.”
The AirBnB can be found at www.number36andtheroxy.org.uk