STAFF and customers said their final farewells as a cinema shut for the last time yesterday.

The closure of The Robins cinema, Durham's only venue showing mainstream films, brought almost 70 years of history to an end.

Although local people fought to save it, drafting a 2,000-name petition, the building's lease has been transferred to Regent Inns, which plans to convert it into an Australian theme bar.

Of the cinema's 21 staff, so far only three have found other jobs. Among them is front of house manager Dale Ballentyne, who will take over as general manager of The Robins, in Camberley, Surrey.

Mr Ballentyne, 20, from Durham, said: "I've been coming to the cinema from way back and I studied film and television at college, so I thought it would be great to get a job here.

"I started as an usher three-and-a-half years ago.

"Something good has come out of this for me but I would much prefer to have stayed here.

"I've always thought of The Robins as a very friendly cinema and the staff are more friends than colleagues. We are all devastated."