Is film starring elderly couple who met in one of UK’s oldest cinemas this year’s best Christmas ad?7 min read

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Move over John Lewis! An adorable festive film made on a shoestring by an independent cinema in a tiny village in Lancashire is a new contender in the running for this year’s best Christmas advert. 

The Palace Cinema in Longridge, which has 60 seats and dates back to 1912, has produced a sweet tribute to the local community.

It tells the story of a couple – Tony Freeman, 81, and his wife Carol, 75, – who met at the cinema decades ago when Carol was 16 and fell in love; and they’re still regular visitors to this day.

The film was created by Palace owner Lara Hewitt, with the help of cameraman Stephan Bookas, 17-year-old film student Jake Mark and local residents including artist called Catrin Williams, who pulled together to act in it and provide props, costumes, lighting, sound and even a vintage car. 

One of the standout features of the production, which cost just under £1,000 to make, is the song which accompanies the advert – a touching track by musician Glyn Shipman, who lives in neighbouring village Ribchester.

The Palace Cinema in Longridge, which has 60 seats and dates back to 1912, has produced a sweet tribute to the local community. Pictured: Tony outside the cinema in a 'modern day' segment of the advert

The Palace Cinema in Longridge, which has 60 seats and dates back to 1912, has produced a sweet tribute to the local community. Pictured: Tony outside the cinema in a ‘modern day’ segment of the advert

‘He brought the song to an open mic night and it’s a song that tells the story of a life in film, a life of watching films at a cinemas like this and how these films get under our skin,’ Lara explained on BBC Breakfast this morning. 

‘And I just loved it and said, “Can we do a video to go with it?” I like to do something with the community at Christmas, so I said, “Right, we’ll make a little short film, who wants to be in it?”‘

What followed was a mass effort from the locals, which saw someone lend a car,  and the Lollypop Lady stop traffic during filming.  

‘I just put a call out and people rallied around,’ Lara said. ‘The storyboard was done on my mum’s kitchen table with a pen and pencil, and one of the 17-year-old lads who worked here helped doing some lights, and a lady who works at one of the clothes shops in the town (Kiran Mal) did the costumes and the make-up, so it was really people pulling together.’

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Tony told how he and Carol met by chance while watching a film

Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Tony told how he and Carol met by chance while watching a film

The film, which has notched up over 7,000 views on YouTube since it was shared on December 8, begins with Tony stood outside the cinema, eating sweets from a paper bag and reminiscing about previous visits, starting from when he was a child.

The scene jumps back in time to a group of young girls going to watch a film – and being pelted by sweets by a cheeky row of boys behind them.

In a sweet moment, a little girl – a young Carol – turns to face young Tony and gestures that she’s got her eye on him; the start of a decades long romance.

It cuts back to modern day Tony, who smiles at the memory but looks teary-eyed – our first hint that he’s perhaps no longer with the love of his life.

The film jumps back in time - with the first flashback showing a group of children (including young Terry and Carol) going to watch a film at the Palace

The film jumps back in time – with the first flashback showing a group of children (including young Terry and Carol) going to watch a film at the Palace

A young Carol turns to look at Tony in a sweet moment, after he and his friends threw sweets at them

A young Carol turns to look at Tony in a sweet moment, after he and his friends threw sweets at them

The next memory features a teenage Tony and Carol on a date at the cinema, tucking into a bag of sweets.

The pair try to sneak a kiss – much to the disapproval of the expressive popcorn seller – but are interrupted by the start of the film.

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We next see the couple several years later, by which point they’re engaged and expecting their first child.

The pair continue the traditional of sharing a paper bag of sweets, similar to that we saw Tony tucking into at the beginning of the film.

The next memory features a teenage Tony and Carol on a date at the cinema, tucking into a bag of sweets

The next memory features a teenage Tony and Carol on a date at the cinema, tucking into a bag of sweets

It then cuts again to the same sassy popcorn seller, cigarette in hand, following a somewhat drastic ‘ageing’ makeover, who smiles at the duo, clearly recognising them as regulars.

The next scene skips forward a few more years, by which point Tony and Carol are joined by their children – a son and daughter, who enjoy a bag of sweets as much as they do.

As a modern day Tony smiles at a young couple pushing their pram into the cinema, it then skips back a few years to Tony pushing Carol in a wheelchair into the movie theatre.

The elderly couple tuck into their now familiar bag of sweets and chuckle away at the film as the screen fades to black.

We next see the couple several years later, by which point they're engaged and expecting their first child

We next see the couple several years later, by which point they’re engaged and expecting their first child

The pair continue the traditional of sharing a paper bag of sweets, similar to that we saw Tony tucking into at the beginning of the film, even when they have their own children

The pair continue the traditional of sharing a paper bag of sweets, similar to that we saw Tony tucking into at the beginning of the film, even when they have their own children

The elderly couple tuck into their now familiar bag of sweets and chuckle away at the film as the screen fades to black

The elderly couple tuck into their now familiar bag of sweets and chuckle away at the film as the screen fades to black

We’re then back with Tony, alone, outside the cinema. He enters and hands over a Christmas card to the sales assistant behind the counter, containing a £10 gift voucher for the Palace.

The touching handwritten message in the card is from his wife, urging him to ‘keep dreaming’. 

An ensuing montage shows a flashback to Carol penning the card, wrapping up a bag of sweets in Christmas paper and glancing at photographs of them from over the years in their home.

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At the cinema Tony, clearly now a widow, is joined by his grandchildren, who accompany him, hand in hand, into the cinema as it begins to snow outside. 

Back in the present, Tony enters and hands over a Christmas card to the sales assistant behind the counter, containing a £10 gift voucher for the Palace

Back in the present, Tony enters and hands over a Christmas card to the sales assistant behind the counter, containing a £10 gift voucher for the Palace

The touching handwritten message in the card is from his wife, urging him to 'keep dreaming'

The touching handwritten message in the card is from his wife, urging him to ‘keep dreaming’

An ensuing montage shows a flashback to Carol penning the card, wrapping up a bag of sweets in Christmas paper and glancing at photographs of them from over the years in their home (pictured)

An ensuing montage shows a flashback to Carol penning the card, wrapping up a bag of sweets in Christmas paper and glancing at photographs of them from over the years in their home (pictured)

Thankfully the real life Carol is very much still with us, and told BBC Breakfast’s Jane McCubbon it feels ‘great’ to be a local star of the silver screen.

Tony explained that they accidentally met in the cinema when they were ‘blocking the view of two young ladies behind us’.

‘Once they started being annoying we made a special effort to block their view. That’s the first day we met,’ he said.

At the cinema Tony, clearly now a widow, is joined by his grandchildren, who accompany him, hand in hand, into the cinema as it begins to snow outside

At the cinema Tony, clearly now a widow, is joined by his grandchildren, who accompany him, hand in hand, into the cinema as it begins to snow outside

Palace cinema owner Lara Hewitt said it was a real community effort to put the film together

Palace cinema owner Lara Hewitt said it was a real community effort to put the film together

‘Then a few years later we met at a dance at Chipping and it went on from that.’

Over the years the couple regularly visited the cinema, enjoying classics like Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and A Day to Remember. 

The pair said they ‘really enjoyed’ being a part of The Palace Cinema’s Christmas advert, which was made to say thank you to all the people who have kept it alive over the years.