CINEMA bosses at the Corn Exchange in Wallingford have launched a £55,000 appeal to buy a digital projector — and protect the historic building for the future.

Since 1980, movies have been shown at the Grade II-listed building, the home of drama group the Sinodun Players.

But 35mm films are now being phased out, and as the cinema is the main income generator for the drama group, managers say it is crucial that a digital projector is installed soon.

Three years ago, £25,000 was spent on a digital sound system but the cinema could end up without any films to show if it doesn’t switch to digital screenings.

It plans to go ahead and buy the projector in August.

Cinema manager John Warburton said: “This is a case of convert or die, and a real crossroads for the Corn Exchange after 31 years of cinema for Wallingford.

“Small and independent cinemas like ours are in danger of being starved of films to show unless we install digital equipment, so we have decided to go ahead and buy the new projector.

“But spending the £55,000 will leave us with very little in the bank and we need that money for the upkeep of the building.

“We are anxious to avoid a situation like Witney where their Corn Exchange had to close because of problems with the upkeep of the building.

“The facade of the Corn Exchange in Wallingford desperately needs a makeover and we had to spend thousands on the roof last year.

“We have applied for a number of grants including a large one which could account for about £20,000 of the £55,000 but we won’t know if we have got that until June.

“We have no choice but to spend the money now, but we don’t want to leave ourselves with nothing in the bank and that’s why we are asking the public for their help.”

Mr Warburton said the trustees of the Sinodun Players had also contacted the town council to ask for help and the council had offered a £25,000 interest-free loan, should the Players require it.

Films popular at the Corn Exchange this year include The Iron Lady and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Town councillor Lynda Atkins said: “The Corn Exchange is a fantastic facility and we don’t want to lose it.”