Town could get arts cinema

EXCLUSIVEBy Roddy AshworthTHE latest plan for a controversial regeneration scheme in an East Anglian town will include an arts cinema.The announcement comes as a question mark hangs over the future of the Ipswich Film Theatre, which runs a programme of minority movies at the town's Corn Exchange.

EXCLUSIVE

By Roddy Ashworth

THE latest plan for a controversial regeneration scheme in an East Anglian town will include an arts cinema.

The announcement comes as a question mark hangs over the future of the Ipswich Film Theatre, which runs a programme of minority movies at the town's Corn Exchange.

Under the scheme to regenerate the St Botolph's area of Colchester, a proposed Visual Arts Facility (VAF) would be designed to house the cinema, which backers hope would regularly offer the public the chance to see art house and independent films.

The cinema would be based in a 200-seater auditorium within the VAF, which is being designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Vinoly, who was a runner-up in the competition to create a replacement building for the World Trade Center in New York.

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Most of the £16million cost of the VAF is set to be funded by national and regional bodies, and it is seen by Colchester Borough Council as a central part of the St Botolph's regeneration.

The auditorium could also used for other entertainment, such as chamber concerts and recitals, but showing a regular programme of minority films would be one of its key roles.

John Jowers, leader of the council, said it would not be a small film club, but would be run for profit.

"The view is it will be one of the functions of the VAF to provide this service. But it will have to be a commercial thing. There is a successful VAF in Dundee in which an art cinema is a very popular feature," he added.

A spokesman for Odeon, which runs a multiplex in Colchester, said he felt there was a market for a cinema showing arts film and did not believe the two venues would be in competition.

"I think it would be good for the town, but I don't see it as being a threat to us. As a commercial multiplex chain it can be hard to get hold of these films because sometimes only 60 prints are made," he added.

"Of those, around 20 go to London, which just leaves 40 for the rest of the country and the art house cinemas take them. To be honest, it's not the sort of thing that's going to play against Shrek 2, but there is a market out there and I think it would be good for the area."

Peter Martin, the Essex County Council cabinet member with responsibility for regeneration, said he had been had been to see the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre.

"It is successful and it has helped regenerate the area as we are planning it will at St Botolph's. It also has a cinema, mainly used for art films. There is a cinema club that is open to the public and it is also used by the university," he added.

"There is definitely a niche there for Colchester. The cinema also makes a contribution to the arts centre's overheads and brings people into the centre, where there is a successful bar and restaurant.

"I think it is quite an important part of the community facility we are aiming to put in there and I think it will be well used."

The cinema has been proposed at the same time as a new home is being sought for the Ipswich Film Theatre.

The organisation, which runs a programme of art house and minority films, is having to move from the Corn Exchange because of noise problems and the fact it does not comply with the new Disability Discrimination Act.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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