A Berkshire-based A-Lister has joined the fight to save a historic Sunninghill theatre venue after a threat of demolition and permanent closure became evident early this year.

Save the Novello Picture House campaign was launched when members of the community were made aware that the old picture house had been released back into the control of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead after a long-term lease expired with a Maidenhead-based theatre group.

Rather than seeing the much-loved theatre close its doors for good, locals have overwhelmingly backed the campaign to bring the theatre back into use as a creative hub and joint venture with the current village hall – The Cordes Hall.

The campaigners have announced that after weeks of work alongside the local parish council, they have received support from actor and film director Kenneth Branagh.

After being briefed on the campaign to save the beloved venue, he said: “I’m so impressed by the tremendous response from the community in and around Sunninghill about the future of the Novello Picture House.

“I share their interest in the huge potential for this historic theatre venue. And I am also very appreciative and grateful to the council for its speedy engagement with the issue. So much valuable work is being done by those involved with the campaign, and I enthusiastically endorse the tireless efforts of all concerned.

“The great work already being done at the Cordes Hall can be beautifully complimented by the right vision for the lost gem next door. I am hopeful that the upcoming conversations between all the interested parties, can produce a marvellous result for a community that has clearly demonstrated enthusiasm for a great local asset.”

Branagh is a Belfast-born and Reading-raised actor and film director, known for his work in several film adaptions of William Shakspere’s plays including Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing.

In 2021, he received acclaim for his semi-autobiographical film Belfast, where he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and won Best Original Screenplay.

The support comes as the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead reviews the potential next steps for the future of the building.

Save The Novello Picture House coordinator, Alan Everett said: “We are grateful to RBWM for their cooperation and engagement to date which has led to a better understanding of the issues at stake and lays the foundations for a win-win solution that benefits all stakeholders in the Novello Theatre.

“We remain hopeful this constructive dialogue will conclude in an agreement that restores this neglected, but well-loved and badly needed, theatre back to its rightful position in the heart of our community.”