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Bury St Edmunds' Mrs Cinema celebrates 50 years working at the Abbeygate Cinema



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'Behind every successful man, is a woman' and this couldn’t be more true for cinema man Pat Church, whose wife, 76-year-old Geraldine, celebrates her 50th year at the Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds.

Pat reached his 60-year milestone in cinema last month, having been involved with the big screen from an early age. But for wife Geraldine, who goes by the nickname Gerry, her life as Mr Cinema’s right-hand woman was an unexpected one.

She said: "It all started when my mother and I moved into the top flat above the cinema and that is how I met Pat in the first place.

Gerry Church, wife of cinema man, Pat Church, is celebrating her own cinema anniversary of 50 years working at the Abbeygate. Picture: Mecha Morton
Gerry Church, wife of cinema man, Pat Church, is celebrating her own cinema anniversary of 50 years working at the Abbeygate. Picture: Mecha Morton

"The chief projectionist lived below us and he invited me into the projection room to show me what things were like and Pat was working that evening. It just seemed to go from there and blossomed.”

Gerry married Pat in 1967 aged 21 and several years later in 1972 took a role at the cinema when Pat, who was manager at the time, faced staffing issues.

She left her job as a laundress and embarked on a new journey into the world of film, first as an usherette and sales girl and later a cashier.

Gerry left her job as a laundress to start working at the Abbeygate Picture: Mecha Morton
Gerry left her job as a laundress to start working at the Abbeygate Picture: Mecha Morton

"I wasn’t really interested in cinema and never thought too much about it," she said.

"But I’ve got to know the people that have come in throughout the years and seen children grow up. They say life’s a journey and it is."

Both Gerry and Pat are now semi-retired, but Mrs Cinema still dedicates time to the Abbeygate, helping out with live shows when needed and doing the sales tray.

Gerry still helps with the sales tray every now and then. Picture: Mecha Morton
Gerry still helps with the sales tray every now and then. Picture: Mecha Morton

Although slowing down when it comes to cinema life, Gerry’s memories of working at the Abbeygate are still as vibrant as ever.

Her fondest memory will always be when an unusual visitor came to a screening of a smash-hit animation.

She said: “When we screened the Lion King, one of the wildlife centres brought in a lion cub and that was absolutely brilliant.

One of Gerry's fondest memories was when she got to hold a lion cub at the screening of the Lion King film. Picture: Mecha Morton
One of Gerry's fondest memories was when she got to hold a lion cub at the screening of the Lion King film. Picture: Mecha Morton

"The lady was feeding the cub with a bottle and she asked if I wanted to have a go and I thought 'would I ever?' I sat there feeding this lion cub and it was absolutely fantastic."

For Pat, Gerry is an unsung figure within the cinema and has supported him throughout.

Gerry holding the lion cub. Picture: Mecha Morton
Gerry holding the lion cub. Picture: Mecha Morton

"She’s supported me through thick and thin all the way through my time at the Abbeygate," he said. "I don’t think I’ve been the easiest person to live with as a film and cinema fanatic.

Pat and Gerry in the new heritage and memorabilia room at the Abbeygate Cinema. Picture: Mecha Morton
Pat and Gerry in the new heritage and memorabilia room at the Abbeygate Cinema. Picture: Mecha Morton

"There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but she’s always been there in the background."