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Bury St Edmunds cinema legend Pat Church is finalist in film hero competition to attend BAFTA Awards

Bury St Edmunds cinema legend Pat Church is in the running to attend the BAFTA Awards and rub shoulders with Hollywood’s finest after being shortlisted in a competition celebrating local film heroes.

Pat, 72, has been at the heart of Abbeygate Cinema for more than 50 years and helped save the venue from closure.

In honour of his contribution to the community, the semi-retired casual cinema manager is among nine people shortlisted by a BAFTA jury in its second annual ‘For the Love of Film’ competition following public nominations.

Pat Church
Pat Church

Two winners will be announced in January and, as their prize, invited to the EE British Academy Film Awards on February 2 with dinner and a stay at the Savoy Hotel in London.

Pat said: “I’m quite honoured really to think someone would put me forward. I’ve been at Abbeygate for 54 years. It’s been the love of my life.

“It would be nice to be there and quite an honour to ring out the name Abbeygate.”

He added that he was ‘shocked’ to discover he had been nominated and has felt ‘more excited’ as the date approaches for the winners to be revealed.

Pat joined the cinema in Hatter Street as a projectionist in the 1960s aged just 19.

He has seen the venue through 12 different owners and four near-closures.

After the first threat of closure in 1975, Pat refused to back down. He produced a business plan convincing the owners to give the cinema one more chance and was promoted to manager.

BAFTA’s summary of Pat as a finalist said: “His personal, caring and individual service has led to committed staff and a staunchly loyal customer and membership base measured in the thousands.

“It’s safe to say that Pat’s dream of turning this ‘back street theatre’ into an important part of the community has come true.”

Nearly 300 applications were considered by a panel, which included director Amma Asante, broadcaster Edith Bowman, writer/director Paul Greengrass, filmmaker and content creator Jack Howard and Andrew Orr, of BAFTA’s film committee.