The Indie Series – Jam Jar Cinema

An up and coming independent cinema in Whitley Bay has been making a big impact on the UK film scene after winning the For the Love of Film award at the BAFTAs this year. Richard Dawson speaks to owner Dan Ellis about Jam Jar Cinema and what it takes to run an independent business in the region

Tell us about Jam Jar Cinema?

Jam Jar Cinema is based in Whitley Bay, we have adopted an unloved former office and converted it into a luxury cinema. Currently we have two screening rooms. A 45 seater and a 29 seater that’s not long opened. We screen the best of British film, the latest Hollywood hits as well as a wide selection of documentaries, world cinema and Indy flicks. We’re miles away from the faceless, corporate multiplex and pride ourselves in investing in the overall experience, the staff and ensuring each and every person gets a warm welcome and leaves with a smile on their face. We are in the final stages of our major growth plan and we’re adding a third screen, a new lounge bar and installing a lift so that the venue will become fully accessible, all in time for Christmas.

What is the most rewarding aspect of running an independent business in the region?

For me the most rewarding part of the job is seeing friendly people everyday. The coast is full of people from all walks of life. Everyday I get to meet lovely people, and for the most part they are always so appreciative, thankful and interesting. One thing that’s great about cinema in particular is that its universal, and Geordies aren’t afraid to give their opinions, whether they love or loathe a movie!

And the most challenging?

I still haven’t mastered work-life balance. I’m honest enough to say that Jam Jar Cinema is the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing at night. A lot of small businesses will say it fits around their lifestyle, where as my lifestyle is very much around the cinema. Living in Whitley Bay, I also am probably a bit close to work, but that’s one of the things that drive me. We’re doing things in my home town.

What are the short and long-term plans for the business?

Once we finish the expansion at our current site, we’re actively looking for other towns across the region to invest in. We have a shortlist of three and are aiming to open another site by Spring 2021.

What advice would you give to anyone with a business idea?

I often think back to when I first started and I remember everyone said “that will never work”, “why don’t you do this”, “have you thought about this” and very quickly I realised that listening to counsel is great but sometimes you just need to go with your gut, even if you’re wrong.

What do you like most about living and working in the North East?

Well it’s the location. I walk to work everyday along our beautiful coastline and at a weekend I can be in the countryside in 10 minutes. If I need anything at the shops we have fantastic independent retailers and within no time at all I can be at larger stores.

Jam Jar Cinema