In 2020, a fundraiser aimed to save a historic Woolton cinema. So why is it no closer to reopening?
'What makes it worse is they don’t answer any correspondence. They’ve gone into oblivion'
Dear readers — for years the residents of Woolton have been fighting for their beloved cinema, Woolton Picture House, a historic institution and a jewel in the village’s crown.
In fact, the place is held so dear that when its owners announced its closure in 2020, a fundraiser was launched almost immediately to save it. Residents quickly dug into their pockets and raised £24k via GoFundMe, with the money soon transferred onto the cinema. Yet three years after the fact, its doors remain firmly shut.
Rumours have begun swirling, with people questioning what happened to the hard earned cash so generously donated. Will the cinema ever reopen? And why are its owners so hard to get hold of? That’s today’s members-only story, which is paywalled halfway down. While we’d love to give away our journalism for free, the kind of work we produce doesn’t come easily.
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“It’s been an absolute nightmare.” We’re speaking to Sue Snow, the woman behind a now infamous fundraiser for Woolton Picture House. She set up the GoFundMe page over three years ago, after news broke that the oldest independent cinema in Liverpool would be shutting for good. While the cinema didn’t explicitly state it was financially struggling, it did cite the pandemic as the straw that broke the camel’s back — calling the closure “devastating”.
Sue herself has a personal connection to the cinema. Like many in Liverpool, she has fond memories from childhood of the big plush chairs, pestering her parents to buy her an ice cream in the interval and rolling down its sloping floor. So when she heard it would be closing, she felt obliged to step in. After all, she is a generous woman — currently training to be a vicar, this fundraiser offered her an opportunity to give back to the village that means so much to her. The community soon rallied around, their own memories of the cinema sparking generous donations into the thousands.
All in all, over 1,600 people donated, raising £24k in a matter of hours. “You’re riding high thinking ‘oh my god, we’ve raised all this money’,” she says. “It got into the papers – we were hoping more money could come off the back of it.”
GoFundMe handed over the £24k to Woolton Picture House Ltd — the company that runs the cinema based on Mason Street — back in the autumn of 2020. Yet nearly four years on, its doors remain bolted shut. As we stand outside, weeds spring out from the roof; chipped paint and rat droppings line the entrance. We ring the doorbell multiple times and bang on the door. No answer.
We’re not the only ones who have gone knocking. Over the years, numerous councillors have written letters to the cinema, asking what happened to the donations from the local community. Those who gave over their hard earned cash have sent emails and left voicemails on the cinema’s answer machine. But still, radio silence.
For Sue, the money in question has been more than a thorn in her side. She’s faced devastating accusations online, with people asking where the donations went and questioning her intentions. “I’m sick and tired of it,” she says, adding that she only wanted “to do some good” for her local community. “All I’ve seemed to get is backlash,” she says. “I’ve really had to defend myself.”
Over three years after the fundraiser was first launched, burning questions still remain: what happened to the thousands of pounds so generously donated? And why, after years of pestering by councillors and residents, have those behind the cinema been so unforthcoming with news about its fate?