Bury St Edmunds: Question mark over future of Cineworld and Abbeygate Picturehouse cinemas in town

Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds.

Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds.

A question mark hangs over the future of Bury St Edmunds’ two cinemas.

Yesterday the Competition Commission announced Cineworld might have to sell its multiplex cinema in Parkway or the newly-refurbished Abbeygate Picturehouse in Hatter Street.

The commission has provisionally concluded Cineworld’s acquisition of City Screen Limited, which runs the Picturehouse chain, would lead to higher prices for customers in the town.

The fortunes of the popular Abbeygate Picturehouse, which offers niche screenings as well as mainstream films, were seen to be on the up following a major refurbishment costing up to £1million and then the acquisition by Cineworld which was seen to provide the cinema with financial stability.

Abbeygate Picturehouse manager Pat Church said: “I’m disappointed about the outcome, there’s no doubt about it. We are an entirely different operation to what Cineworld is or ever will be.

You may also want to watch:

“There’s been so much effort and investment over the last three years. This is not something we envisaged happening.”

Mr Church, who began working there as a projectionist in 1966, said Cineworld finances the Abbeygate Picturehouse, but Picturehouse runs it.

Most Read

“It’s really watch this space at the moment and in the meantime the company are actively pursuing different lines of approach to try and get the commission to see differently.”

Mr Church, who has managed the cinema since 1975, acknowledged it was not “doom and gloom,” adding “it’s another chapter in the building’s history”.

Previously it came close to closure when it was known as the Hollywood Cinema, but it was taken over by Picturehouse Cinemas in 2010.

Councillor Sarah Stamp, cabinet member for heritage, arts and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “From our perspective the council fully supports the Picturehouse. It adds to the vibrancy and diversity of the town’s cultural offering.

“Personally I think it’s a completely different offering to Cineworld and there’s strong support for it from the friends of the cinema and people in the town.”

Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, added: “The younger people tend to use the new one [Cineworld] and I think the more senior people, residents of the town centre use the small one. They use it an awful lot and they are both a great asset to the town. And were either to be placed on the market we have got to hope somebody would come long and buy them.”

In its initial findings the Competition Commission said Cineworld’s acquisition of City Screen Limited could lead to a “substantial lessening of competition” in the three areas - Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge and Aberdeen - where Cineworld and Picturehouse face limited competition.

A Cineworld spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to work with the commission as the process continues before a final decision from the commission in October. We want to reassure all our people and customers that we continue to welcome customers as usual.”

Any interested party is invited to respond to the provisional findings in writing by no later than September 10. Email CineworldCityScreen@cc.gsi.gov.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus