Ipswich: Cinema chain eyes up huge unit in Buttermarket shopping centre

A NEW multi-screen cinema could be developed as part of a major revamp of the town’s Buttermarket Centre.

Nationwide operator Vue is understood to be in discussions with the owners of the Buttermarket Centre to convert the department store unit – left empty when TJ Hughes collapsed last year – into a cinema.

Neither Vue nor the centre would confirm or deny that a deal was under discussion, but The Star understands that talks have also been ongoing with planning officials at the borough to try to ensure that any change of use would be acceptable to the town.

The Buttermarket Centre is run by property company Cornerstone. Their director Darren Hutchinson said there was no agreement with any other organisation about the future of the former department store.

However he hoped to start a consultation process with people in Ipswich about plans for the centre in about four weeks’ time.

Cinema nationally has undergone a revival over recent years – but in 2005 the town was not considered large enough for a second multi-screen cinema alongside Cineworld on Cardinal Park.

In that year the Odeon at Major’s Corner, which had only opened in 1991, closed – and the building has remained empty ever since.

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Vue operates many cinemas in shopping centres across the country. The Vue in Ipswich would be almost opposite the town’s film theatre, which has two screens devoted to specialist films.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he was aware of the talks about the possibility of bringing Vue to the Buttermarket, and felt it would be a shot in the arm for the whole town centre.

He said: “It would be magnificent if it happens. It is just what we need in the town centre.

“It would be a boost for all the pubs and restaurants in the town centre – and it would give a real shot in the arm for the early-evening life in the centre of the town, between 6pm and 9pm.

“I think it is the ideal place for a cinema – the problem with the Odeon was it was a bit out on a limb and there was no parking.

“At the Buttermarket there is parking on the site and people would be able to come out after a film and go for a meal at one of the restaurants and pubs that are nearby.

“It would also be good for Cineworld to have some competition.”