‘A part of me has died’ - Hollywood Cinema film boss ‘in mourning’ after collapse of chain
PUBLISHED: 17:48 11 February 2019 | UPDATED: 13:47 12 February 2019
Archant Norfolk 2017
The man behind a 30-year cinema empire which fell apart this week has said ‘a part of him has died’, despite an outpouring of public support.
Hollywood Cinemas fell into administration last Thursday with Yarmouth and Norwich shutting immediately and Dereham carrying on with new owners.
On Monday Mr Wicks was back in his office in Anglia Square, the walls bereft of memorabilia and without his secretary of 26 years buzzing around.
“It was never just a business after 30 years,” he said. “It is all the personal things.
“A part of me has definitely died.
“It is still very emotional and very overwhelming because there have been so many good wishes coming in, not just for me but for the staff too.
“It is surreal because I am still in the office. It is very challenging.
“After 30 years we have seen plenty of storms but this was totally different, this was a perfect storm starting with the Beast from the East, the heatwave and then a poor Christmas - it all happened in the same year.
“It has been coming to a head, particularly with some poor performing films.
“We did not have a choice. It was a case of either me taking control or somebody else would have had to, and I would rather it was me.
“I am really pleased that Dereham is continuing. It was one of my babies.
“Norwich and Yarmouth is devastating.
“I am hoping that Yarmouth will be able to re-open in some form but it is really early days.”
Mr Wicks said “aggressive” pricing in Norwich had seen Anglia Square lose some 18,000 admissions and he urged regular Hollywood film-goers to continue to support independent cinemas which were important to communities.
He said he had watched young children grow up and bring their own sons and daughters to his cinemas.
Being on first-name terms with many and even knowing their birthdays was something you didn’t get with a multiplex, he said.
“We made life-long friends with these people,” he said.
“And we knew the type of films they liked. We built up relationships with our customers.”
Mr Wicks said it was frustrating that the writing talent had gone to streaming services like Neflix with too many films being released that were re-makes or part of a series.
He was also upset by “obscene” subsidies given to the likes of St George’s Theatre in Great Yarmouth which he claimed would never pay its way, and projects like the Regent Theatre in Regent Road were more deserving.
Great Yarmouth’s air show was another money pit that had bought no benefit to traders like him: “I might as well have been shut for two days,” he added.
“I am going through a mourning period of reflection of where I go from here.
“Then I get these urges to do things but I have to put the brakes on.
“I am still trying to help the staff to get to a point where they can move on as well.
“To see Great Yarmouth open again is important to me whether I am part of that or not.
“Great Yarmouth has to have a cinema.”
He said highlights over the years had included the Alpha Papa movie premiere being held at Anglia Square, getting the certificate changed for Mrs Doubtfire, and holding the world record for the 46-week run of Despicable Me in Norwich.
Announcing the business had ceased trading was “a huge burden” he added, knowing that many thousands would be disappointed.
“We weren’t perfect,” he said. “But we were going for 30 years and all we wanted to do was entertain.
“The difference between us and others was that we cared. We were in old buildings so nothing was perfect, but we did the best we could.
“We had thousands upon thousands of people get in touch.
“That makes me feel we must have done something right.”