One of Britain’s oldest continuously operating cinemas and a gem in Cumbria’s cultural crown is to reopen this week after using lockdown to fast-track renovations on its historic site.

The Alhambra Cinema in Keswick is reopening on Friday, but not all of the changes at the local landmark are due to meeting the Government’s coronavirus health and safety guidelines.

Owner Carol Rennie and husband Alan have used the last four months wisely to do renovation and refurbishment work on the entrance and the foyer area, on a minimal budget and with no labour costs.

Previously they had planned to do the work gradually over the next three years, to avoid having to close for it.

With the help of skilled volunteer, Jonathan Moore, they used left-over supplies in their main restoration last year to do a complete revamp, involving restoring the stained-glass doors to the toilets that had been panelled over, removal of the artex panel ceiling, renovation of the external doors and installing new lighting.

Carol is hoping the work, along with re-launching the one-screen site with a mix of both new releases and classic re-runs, will help get as much needed local support as possible.

Mrs Rennie, aged 48, said: “I’m quite optimistic people will come to the cinema and we will get a lot of visitors and attract people that wouldn’t usually come to us, we’ve put in procedures which must make the cinema one of the safest places to enjoy being out while completely social distancing.

“I feel confident we can ride through this, as unlike other areas, tourists make up a huge number of our customers and people will still go on holiday to the Lakes and one attraction they will often do is go to the cinema.

“I think there will be more staycations and self catering holidays than usual, especially as people can’t go abroad and that makes me optimistic we will attract lots of visitors, including people who don’t usually visit but may come for the novelty factor or because other options like theatres and music venues remain closed.”

Coronavirus may have sadly succeeded where world wars and the Spanish flu pandemic failed, forcing Keswick Alhambra to temporarily shut its doors in mid-March for the first time in its history, but it hasn’t meant people have seen the last of the family run venue, which was built in 1913 and has a maximum capacity of 248 seats.

The picture house is kicking things off at 1-30pm with classic Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back before Climbing Blind and will also be showing over the next week Onward, Military Wives, Parasite, Radioactive, The Yukon Assignment and 1917.

Due to safety measures where they would usually show three films a day, and four in school holiday periods, it will only be showing two, to give staff time to do a full clean and air out of the venue. It will also only be running at a maximum of 25 per cent of usually capacity to spread people out and 80 per cent of all seats will not be used more than once in a 24 hour period.

The cinema is also using its fire doors as exits to reduce congestion and installed plastic safety screens. Some staff will be wearing face coverings while it will be compulsory for customers from Wednesday to Friday. All customers will have to provide contact details as part of the track and trace scheme. Contactless payments and online booking is also being advised.

Carol, who bought the cinema from Graves Cumberland in 2016 after her father Tom worked their for 30 years, first as projectionist then manager, added: “This is the only closure in our 106-year existence and is totally unprecedented.

“Alan and I have seen over the last two, three years a real increase in numbers coming to the cinema and an increase in income. This year was going to be our best yet with Peter Rabbit 2 at Easter, and James Bond - No Time to Die, so those are the two films we’re still holding our breath with, trying to find out what’s going to happen.”

Cinemas across the UK could be given the green light to reopen just ahead of two other big planned releases — Tenet, and Disney blockbuster Mulan.

“We’ve been having meetings with the UK Cinema Association, which has been immensely helpful in co-ordinating cinema responses and helping us engage with the challenges, we decided to wait a little bit later until this week and allow us a little bit more time to get fully prepared” said Carol.

During lockdown, the Alhambra was helped by getting £10,000 from the Government and an additional £5,400 as part of a pot to be shared among arts and culture establishments.

Looking ahead, Carol has highlighted her desire to work with other important local institutions the Theatre by the Lake and Keswick Museum to keep the arts and culture scene as healthy as possible.

She is keen on setting up a joint stall to promote their activities in the town centre and has made a pledge to help the struggling theatre where possible.

She added: “I think we should collaborate more, and while screenings of the National Theatre and others has been a real success for us and is a crucial market, we’re willing to give some of that to TBTL if it will help while we just need people to come and support us,”