A CINEMA that has brought a little movie magic to the Yorkshire Dales celebrates its tenth anniversary this month.

Leyburn in Wensleydale was without a cinema for 30 years until the Elite opened in November 1994.

And while many small-town cinemas have struggled to survive, the 170-seater venue continues to pull in the crowds.

The cinema was opened by movie-buffs Geoff and Jude Simpson, of Carperby, who came up with the idea while attending the Cannes Film Festival.

They bought the building, which stopped showing films in the 60s after a fire, but admit they were a little naive about the work needed just to show a few movies. "We didn't really appreciate the sheer responsibility of opening a building to the public," said Mrs Simpson, a former theatrical costumier

"We had a huge refit, plus there were fire safety and building regulations to think about.

"It was such a job getting it going that we never really stopped to think if we would still be here in ten years."

The couple try to show films to suit all tastes. Often a foreign language film on a Thursday night will be followed by a big US blockbuster on a Friday or Saturday.

This willingness to experiment has proved popular with audiences.

People travel from as far away as Darlington and Harrogate to watch small independent films, which may not be on show anywhere else in the North-East.

But British films have still proved to be among the must popular, said Mrs Simpson, with Calendar Girls, The Full Monty and Billy Elliott joining Titanic as the big hits of the past decade.

"We were keen not to be an art-house cinema - because we couldn't survive," said Mrs Simpson. "So we try to put on a range of films.

"Occasionally people will stop me in Leyburn Market Place on a Friday and rave about a film. That's the pleasure for me - showing films that people enjoy."

Mr and Mrs Simpson plan to celebrate the tenth anniversary with a party for cinema regulars and friends later this month.

Published: 16/11/2004