FILM buffs were pleasantly surprised yesterday when they were handed a free ice cream with their cinema ticket to help raise funds for Prospect Hospice.

Empire Cinemas at Greenbridge Retail Park run the Free Cones event every year for a chosen charity, and this time the scoop went to the 160 Appeal, aiming to raise £160,000 for the Wroughton-based hospice.

Donations were made in return for a helping of Ben and Jerry’s, and face painting, games and raffles were on hand to entertain the half-term crowd.

Amy Francombe, community fundraiser for Prospect Hospice, helped with the collection on the day. “It has been fantastic, and there are so many people and kids coming through,” she said.

“The influx of people coming in and out of the screenings has helped keep things nice and fluid, and there is a steady stream of them passing us.”

She added: “We were very grateful to be contacted by the cinema, and we know this is usually a very successful annual event. They raised about £500 last year and they are pushing for even more this time around.

“It has been lovely to see the kids getting all excited with the games and the free ice creams. Most people have made a donation, which we really appreciate.

“We want to be able to work very well with businesses like Empire. They are trying to raise their profile and get involved with the community, and this is a fantastic way of doing that because it is something a little bit different. It is a win-win for us.”

Most cinemagoers were slightly taken aback when they realised there was a free supply of ice cream.

Jasmine Fourniss, 18, said “We really weren’t expecting to walk in and find all this, it’s great. We were just coming in for a film, so to get a free ice cream as well is great.”

This Is Wiltshire:

The Empire licks back – pictured, left to right, Mel Dicker, Andrew Fisher, manager, and Amy Francombe

Harry Austen, 16, whose mother works for Prospect, has fundraised for them in the past.

“I abseiled down the Jury’s Inn hotel in August of last year,” he said.

“My mum suggested it, and I thought it would be quite exciting so I set up a donation page and ended up raising about £200. I think what they are doing here is great.”

Andrew Fisher, manager at Empire Cinemas, said: “We set out early to raise as much as we could and make it as fun as possible,” he said.

“It really got into a good swing.”