Bury St Edmunds: Petition to save Abbeygate Picturehouse in Hatter Street reaches 11,000 names

Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds.

Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds.

More than 11,000 people have signed a petition to safeguard the future of three art house cinemas - including one in Bury St Edmunds.

Supporters of the Abbeygate Picturehouse in Hatter Street, Bury, have given their backing to the petition after the Competition Commission suggested Cineworld - which also owns a multiplex in the town - may have to sell one.

The Competition Commission has provisionally found that Cineworld’s aquisition of City Screen Limited, which runs the Picturehouse chain, would lead to higher prices for customers in Bury, Cambridge and Aberdeen where Cineworld and Picturehouse face limited competition.

The change.org petition, which has been launched by Abbeygate Picturehouse customer Mark Liversidge, calls for Alisdair Smith, of the Competition Commission, to stop the enforced sale of the three Picturehouse cinemas.

It says the potential sale or loss of the cinemas would be “damaging to consumers and to the fabric of the local area”.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley has also written to Mr Smith asking him why the Competition Commission has initially ruled Cineworld may have to sell its Bury Picturehouse cinema.

Mr Ruffley said: “I have had a huge number of constituents writing to me to complain about the commission’s policy towards Bury St Edmunds.

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“It is no surprise to me that a petition with 11,000 names is up and running. From my understanding, the Competition Commission seems to think that the merger between Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas is going to ramp up prices.

“What they don’t understand, but my constituents do, is that the two cinemas offer very different products to different clienteles. I want to know why they think they know better than Suffolk residents. Once I have their response I will share it with my constituents.”

Pat Church, who has managed the Hatter Street cinema since 1975, said he hoped the petition would sway the commission’s mind.

“It’s certainly very heartwarming everyone is so much behind us. It just shows what a mark we have made in the town since we have done all these alterations and brought an art culture to Bury, which has been an ambition of mine for many years now.”

Councillor Sarah Stamp, cabinet member for heritage, arts and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “I think what the petition does is just show the strength of feeling about the Picturehouse and it’s a really important part of the culture scene in Bury and how we are desperate to protect that.”

She said many people had also written submissions to the Competition Commission as part of consultation which closed yesterday. The Commission will make its final decision next month.

The petition, which will remain open until the final report is published, can be found at http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/competition-commission-stop-the-enforced-sale-of-three-picturehouse-cinemas