Does Bury St Edmunds need another cinema?

Plans for a cinema in the basement of the former Debenhams store in the Arc in Bury St Edmunds have been a talking point

Plans for a cinema in the basement of the former Debenhams store in the Arc in Bury St Edmunds have been a talking point - Credit: Archant

A bustling market town in Suffolk will boast three cinemas in the not-too-distant future if plans are approved - but what do people think?

A proposal has been lodged for a cinema run by boutique chain Everyman at the empty Debenhams store, the flagship unit of the Arc shopping centre.

The planning application, by the landowners Bury WM Unit Trust, is for the basement to be used for a mix of cinema and retail, with four cinema screens and a fifth for private hire, as well as a small bar and restaurant area.

Food and drink can be delivered to customers at their seats, while its offering includes blockbuster movies, arthouse films, live Q&As and film festivals.

On social media residents have questioned whether the town needs another cinema, as it already has the multiplex Cineworld in Parkway and independent arthouse Abbeygate Cinema in Hatter Street.

Gareth Boggis, general manager of Abbeygate Cinema, is optimistic for his cinema's future

Gareth Boggis, general manager of Abbeygate Cinema, is optimistic for his cinema's future, but said a third offer in the town could compromise what all three venues are doing - Credit: Abbeygate Cinema

Gareth Boggis, general manager of Abbeygate Cinema, said they remain optimistic for the future at Abbeygate, but added: "I think it's going to be interesting.

"There could be a concern from any of the three cinemas that potentially over-screening could mean that all the offers are compromised. There are only so many visits per head of population and Bury is a small town already served by 11 screens."

Abbeygate Cinema has plans for a fourth screen, more dining space and new toilets on the ground floor.

Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds Picture: Abbeygate Cinema

Abbeygate Cinema in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Abbeygate Cinema

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"We have a fantastic and very loyal and large membership base we are very proud of," Mr Boggis said. "We have come off the back of a very busy Valentine's weekend.

"We are looking forward to the future and the exciting new developments we can do ourselves."

Plans for Cineworld, in Parkway, to expand were approved in 2020, but it is still unclear whether the project will go ahead.

Mark Cordell, CEO at Ourburystedmunds BID, has welcomed the plans for the old Debenhams building

Mark Cordell, CEO at Ourburystedmunds BID, has welcomed the plans for the old Debenhams building - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mark Cordell, chief executive of the town's Business Improvement District (BID), said of the Everyman plans: "This is great news to hear that part of the old Debenhams building is going to have a new business in it soon and, although I wouldn't have guessed the next tenant would be a cinema, I think it's an exciting opportunity to create something unique within that building."

He said a successful town centre could no longer be reliant just on retail, but needed to have a wide-ranging offer - and these plans contribute to that.

He added: "I have no doubt Everyman carried out considerable research before deciding upon Bury as their next outlet and everyone at the BID wishes them the best of luck and looks forward to welcoming them."

He said he hoped the subsequent future tenant for the ground and first floors would be complementary.

Peter Thompson, the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds, wants assurances there is demand for another cinema

Peter Thompson, the Mayor of Bury St Edmunds, wants assurances there is demand for another cinema - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Peter Thompson said: "Whilst I support bringing any empty space into productive use, I would seek assurances that there is sufficient demand for additional cinema space and that our healthy independent cinema provision would not be put in jeopardy."

A supporting statement with the planning application said: "Everyman aims to provide an unbeatable cinema experience in high quality and unique venues and would add a new dimension to existing cinema outlets in the town centre."

Cineworld did not respond for comment.