THE Regal Cinema in Fordingbridge, which was forced to temporarily close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is still helping to keep film fans connected online.

A different film is shown every week at Friday, starting at 7pm - bringing together cinema members and non-members through two Facebook groups.

Barry Robbins, of Fordingbridge Regal Cinema Club, said the online film screenings have been proving "very popular".

He said: "We have two Facebook groups and polled are members just after we closed about how would could keep in contact. The majority of them said that they used Facebook. Then we thought what we would do is every week we would choose a film on a platform like iPlayer, Channel 4 Films, Netflix, Amazon Prime and rotate week by week with a shortlist of three or four films each week.

"We get the members of our members group to select a film that we will show on the following Friday. Then on our public group, which is open to all, members and non-members, we publish on Monday or Tuesday, the chosen film.

"At 7pm on Friday we all sit down and watch it together in a group but separately, and we open a thread on our public Facebook group then after the film leave comments and there is a discussion afterwards. We do that every week."

The online film group has been running for about a month. This week's chosen film is The Conversation (1974) on BBC iPlayer – a psychological thriller starring Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford. The film club will be watching this on Saturday (May 9) instead of Friday due to VE Day.

One of the busiest weeks saw 125 people join in the community screening.

"Those people taking part seem to really enjoy it," added Barry.

"It became a really important part of people's lives and did feel like [The Regal] it became quite a community hub. We have a lot of people, particular elderly customers, and we have quite a few volunteers, for whom it became really important part of their week that they looked forward to and our regular clients who came to watch films love the atmosphere and vibe of the place. When that suddenly stopped there is suddenly a bit of a void in people's lives.

"We were utting on not just your standard films we put on new releases, classics, foreign films. People were coming to see things that they probably wouldn't normally watch.

Although Barry admits that it "doesn't compare with the Regal experience" but it is an opportunity for people to come together online for a couple of hours to watch a film and have a chat afterwards. He added: "Obviously, we don't know what will happen. We are watching everything very closely and we'll work out how soon we can reopen. It is just maintaining people's interest in the cinema."

The cinema will be rescheduling its programme of films that were due to be shown.

To find out more go to The RegalCinemaOnlineFilmGroup on Facebook, which is open to all.