Enthusiasts of Beamish and devotees of cinema are being presented with an exclusive chance to occupy a place in the museum’s 1950s cinema, set to be unveiled in 2024.

The open-air museum in County Durham is meticulously constructing a replica of The Grand from Ryhope in Sunderland. Individuals are being graciously invited to sponsor a cinema seat through the Take a Seat campaign, bestowing upon them a unique involvement in this endeavour.

Cinema seats within the main auditorium of the recreation of The Grand can be sponsored by individuals or businesses. Those who Take a Seat will receive a brass plaque on the back of the seat with their name engraved on it, as well as an invitation to a special celebration event. Businesses will also have the opportunity to have their logo displayed on screen in the rolling credits following a newsreel or film as an extra thank you.

“The Take a Seat campaign offers a fantastic opportunity to support the museum. Those who sponsor a seat will be able to see their chosen name in our 1950s cinema when they visit the museum for years to come. 

“By sponsoring a seat in our recreation of The Grand from Ryhope, you will help the museum generate funds to complete the build and fit out of our cinema. Plus, everyone who sponsors a seat will be invited to a special celebration event when the cinema opens in 2024. 

“We’re so excited about the cinema and this is a lovely way for our visitors to get even more involved in the work that we do at the museum.”

Liz Peart, Partnerships Officer at Beamish Museum

Beamish is a self-reliant charity and 95 per cent of the museum’s income comes from its much-valued visitors. Every penny spent at the museum and through the online shop supports the museum and its work to preserve North East heritage for future generations.

Located in the museum’s 1950s Town, which is being developed with support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the cinema will offer visitors the chance to experience a trip to the pictures during this golden age of cinema. The exhibit includes a main auditorium with stage, screen, pit benches and upholstered seats.

The Grand was a working cinema from its opening in 1913 and was hugely popular in its heyday in the 1950s, regularly selling out all its seats. A sharp decline in cinema visits in the 1960s, due largely to the popularity and availability of television sets, meant that the cinema ceased trading and became a bingo hall. The Grand was donated to the museum by Angela and Gary Hepple.

In 2019, the original building underwent a full architectural survey to assess which materials were suitable for salvage and re-use and a record made of any items that could not be saved. In 2020, The Grand was dismantled, with reusable parts and features incorporated into The 1950s Town cinema.

Beamish Museum’s recreation of The Grand is set to include options of feature-length films at set times as well as showing archive footage, shorts and news during the day, plus potential for occasional evening screenings of 1950 classic films. Visitors will also be able to take a look behind the scenes at the projection room and learn about the skilled role of the projectionist.

The cinema is being built as part of the Remaking Beamish project, the biggest development in the museum’s history which includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Spain’s Field Farm and expansion of the Georgian landscape, including self-catering accommodation, a Drovers’ Tavern, pottery and toll house.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Remaking Beamish project was awarded £10.9million by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2016.

Seat sponsorship will be sold on a first come, first served basis from the museum’s online shop, sponsorship is subject to terms and conditions. Individual seat sponsorship is £295 with a package available for businesses priced at £5,000, which includes acknowledgement of the sponsorship on screen. Visit www.beamish.org.uk for more information. 

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