Bedford Cineworld rolls out the red carpet and VIP treatment for Matilda star

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The Cineworld staff rolled out the red carpet for their VIP guest

The red carpet was rolled out at Cineworld in Bedford this week to welcome one of the stars of the new film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Sophie attends dance and musical theatre classes at Sandford School of Dance and got an audition for the role through her agent, AMKids Agency in Thurleigh.

11-year-old Sophie Hartley-Booth, a year 7 pupil at Goldington Academy, saw off competition from over 2,000 other hopefuls to play one of Matilda’s classmates in the hugely popular musical version of the classic children’s book.

She is currently performing as Jane Banks in the West End production of Mary Poppins.

As just six of the main characters were allowed to attend the VIP premiere of the film in London, Sophie’s grandmother, Gwyneth Jones, contacted Cineworld at Aspects Leisure Park to see if they could help make their viewing of the film a little bit special.

“I messaged Cineworld on Monday morning to ask them if one of their staff could do a simple meet and greet for her as we were coming as a family party of eight,” Gwyneth told the Bedford Independent.

However, the family could not have anticipated the effort the cinema would go to in order to make their visit so memorable.

“We arrived and there to greet her was the manager and other members of staff complete with the red carpet laid out, a personal VIP notice and they presented her with two presents.

“One being a large poster of the film and a lovely little dish in the shape of an umbrella with Mary Poppins Returns.

“The member of staff, which unfortunately I didn’t get his name, had gone to the trouble of Googling her and found that she was also ‘Jane Banks’.

“How thoughtful was that? She was so surprised and left the cinema feeling very special and very happy. Customer service at an outstanding level.”

Gwyneth said she didn’t hesitate to email Cineworld’s head office to acknowledge how helpful the Bedford team had been.

“I feel, generally, we are very quick to complain but make very little attempt to acknowledge someone that goes above what one is expecting.”

Sophie, on the set of Matilda. Image: Hartley-Booth family

The filming of Matilda took place over nine months during the height of lockdown, with Sophie and her mum having to stay near Shepperton Studios, following strict Covid protocols.

Lockdown almost scuppered Sophie’s role in Mary Poppins too. She had reached the final stages of the audition process just as theatres were forced to close for the lockdown.

“Months later, when everything started to open up, they recalled her and she had to do that final audition again, but this time in front of [theatre producer] Cameron Mackintosh himself,” said proud grandmother, Gwyneth.

“And the rest is history so to speak.

“She got the part of Jane Banks along with three others – although she had to make some difficult decisions at the time as she had also been offered the part of young Elsa in the stage production of Frozen in London Drury Lane theatre on the same weekend.”

Sophie started her six-month run in Mary Poppins in February which was renewed for a further five months until the show closes in the West End in early January 2023.

“There are five pairs of Jane and Michaels, so she isn’t needed for all nine weekly performances,” said Gwyneth.

“On average, she performs or is on standby at the theatre three or sometimes four times a week.

“She does leave school early on the day that she has to be at a matinee, otherwise, it’s a car dash from school at 3.30 pm to the train station to get to the theatre by 5.45pm and she gets changed in the car on the way to the station.

“It’s hard work but she seems to balance all her school work and her performances very well. She’s a very resilient child.”