TheNorthern Ireland cinema business will mark the end of an era this month withthe completed upgrading of Belfast's Queen's Film Theatre (QFT) and theretirement of Michael Open who has programmed and managed the venue for threedecades.

The QFT was established under the aegis of Queen'sUniversity in 1969 and it will shortly complete its upgrading of the cinema'sfacilities as part of a new Centre for Drama and Film Studies which opens thisautumn.

The QFT remains the only fulltime specialist cinema in NorthernIreland showing an art house and repertory programme and has managed to survivewith the university's support in a region which generally returns a lacklustrebox office by comparison with its near neighbours the Republic of Ireland andBritain.

In a statement marking his retirement Michael Open said, "Ihave done the difficult bit, keeping the place going for three decades when itwas just an ill-equipped lecture theatre up an alleyway. Now it has a finebuilding with the sort of facilities that everyone expects when going to see agreat film."

During November and early December Open will present aseason of films that mark his long involvement with QFT.