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Ipswich: Cinema uncertainty – could Odeon rebirth scupper Vue plans?

PUBLISHED: 17:35 08 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:35 08 April 2014

Ipswich Odeon

Ipswich Odeon

Archant

Speculation is mounting that another cinema group has bought the former Odeon building at Major’s Corner in Ipswich.

And that could raise a huge question mark over the plans to create a new nine-screen Vue cinema in the town’s Buttermarket shopping centre. The Odeon building was sold at auction in early February for £530,000 – but the identity of the new owner has remained a mystery and the ownership of the building has still not been recorded by the Land Registry.

However property experts in the town understand that its new owner is connected to a growing cinema chain in the country.

And now there are fears that the purchase could lead to Vue pulling out of the deal which would have seen the Buttermarket Centre converted into a major leisure venue.

It was revealed in 2012 that Vue is hoping to move into the top three floors of the former department store in the Buttermarket Centre.

Planning permission was granted for a major change to the shopping centre which would see TK Maxx move to the ground floor of the department store, their store removed completely, and the upper floor converted into a number of restaurants linked to the cinema.

A start date of July last year was announced for the start of work – but nothing happened. Later last year a start date of February this year was given.

No one from the managers of the Buttermarket Centre, Cornerstone, could be contacted to discuss the proposal – but a spokeswoman for Vue said: “Vue Entertainment has been in discussion with developers in Ipswich regarding the possibility of a new cinema in the area, but as of yet no final decisions have yet been made. We remain hopeful of a positive outcome from these discussions.”

It is believed that the uncertainty over the future of the Odeon has not helped Vue and Cornerstone to reach a deal to start work.

To create a nine-screen cinema inside a shopping centre would be a major undertaking, especially as the shop units in the centre would need to continue trading.

Although the Odeon closed in 2005 it is understood that the building is basically sound and refitting it to re-open as a five-screen cinema again would not be a major engineering task.

Ipswich already has 13 cinema screens – 11 at Cineworld on Cardinal Park and two at the Film Theatre in the Corn Exchange.

Since the Odeon closed in 2005, national cinema audiences have increased significantly – but while the town could absorb another nine screens, increasing the town’s screen number from 13 to 27 might be too much of an increase.

Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere said: “I do not know who has bought the (Odeon) building. The roof does leak, but I don’t know how serious that is.

“I would be concerned if the sale of this did put the Buttermarket conversion in jeopardy – that is a very important development for the future of the town centre and I really hope Vue goes ahead with its proposals.

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