Louth Cinema owner speaks of his pride after MBE medal ceremony comes to his bedside

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The proud owner of Louth Cinema was overwhelmed when, after being too ill to travel to Buckingham Palace to collect his MBE, the ceremony came to him instead.

Gerald Parkes, who took over the Playhouse Cinema in 1996, was awarded his MBE for services to the UK cinema industry surrounded by his friends and family at St Andrew’s Hospice in Grimsby on Friday.

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And, as the Queen was unable to hand over the MBE herself her Lincolnshire representative Tony Worth, the county’s Lord-Lieutenant, did the honours.

Gerald began in the film industry over 50 years ago, way back in 1960, when he started as a rewind boy at Wakefield’s ABC before becoming a projectionist and then manager in nearby Dewsbury.

He went on to establish Parkway Cinemas, taking over and expanding Louth Playhouse Cinema before building a brand new multiplex in Cleethorpes.

On receiving his award, Gerald spoke of his shock at the effort people went to bring the MBE ceremony to his bedside.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” he said.

“Of course because of my deteriorating health I can’t go to London to be presented with it by the Queen, but I didn’t expect this at all.

“They pulled out all the stops, and it was more that I could have hoped for.

“I was so proud, the way everyone got everything together, I just wasn’t expecting it. The MBE is now sitting proudly on display.”

In December the Cannon Street cinema was revamped with two of its screens completed with new seating and the latest technology like 3D, and high quality digital sound.

Peter Jackson’s prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy was the first film to be show under the fresh look.

But the cinema under his stewardship began in more humble surroundings, Gerald recalled how there was just one screen back in 1996 with much of the rest of the building used a bingo hall.

“In 1996 we closed down the bingo and opened two extra screens,” Gerald said.

“I started in the industry in 1960 when the beautiful art deco cinemas of the 1930s were still intact. The surviving of the Playhouse in Louth is such a unique thing.

“We’ve invested in the Louth cinema over the years and put digital projection equipment in. It has a beautiful art deco frontage from 1935.”

“We’ve been putting a whole load of effort into getting Louth up to date, the work is almost finished.

“It’s still very popular and that’s thanks to the strong loyalty from the public.”

And Gerald is confident that the cinema in Louth will continue to thrive, despite his ill health.

“The cinema is in good hands, my two sons are the next generation,” he said.