South East Wales

Actor Michael Sheen reopens 'symbolic' Brynmawr cinema

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Media captionMichael Sheen praises the effort of the community to keep the long-standing cinema running

A community cinema in Blaenau Gwent can act as "an inspiration" to groups, actor Michael Sheen has said.

The Hollywood star was speaking at the "grand reopening" of The Market Hall Cinema in Brynmawr after it was ordered to close for six months.

Blaenau Gwent council said it acted because of a claim there could be problems with asbestos.

The cinema's trustees, who took over running the venue from the council years earlier, fought to re-open it.

Mr Sheen was asked to chose which film the sold out crowd would watch for the event, picking the 1946 fantasy-romance A Matter of Life and Death.

He told BBC Wales he wanted to do "whatever he could" to help the community after their battle to keep the cinema going.

"There are so many buildings, especially in south Wales I think, which have a symbolic importance," he said.

"The fact that people are able to make sure they still are the centre of the community is fantastic and I want to do whatever I can to support that."

Image caption Brynmawr's Market Hall Cinema is 123 years old
Image caption As well as his many film credits, Michael Sheen has also appeared on The Simpsons

The Newport-born star said not every community would want a cinema but there were other opportunities to bring "pride" back to an area.

"Every time a community succeeds in this way it serves as an inspiration to other communities," he said.

"There's a desire there for places like this to still be a real link to the community… there may not be the money and there may not necessarily be the knowledge of how to go about it but the tools are there - social enterprise, co-operatives, community share schemes.

"This model isn't necessarily the same model for another community, you have to recognise what the need is in that community - what do the people of that community want themselves?

"This could absolutely be an inspiration or an example for other people."

Beth Watkins, chairwoman of trustees for the cinema, said as the months of closure wore on there was a "real fear" it may stay closed.

But she said fans, trustees and volunteers alike were "determined" to succeed and claimed many businesses were seeing an increase in spin-off trade since the doors reopened.

Image caption Fantasy-romance film A Matter of Life and Death was chosen by Mr Sheen

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