Preston needs a scintillating night-time offer to help revive the flagging city centre, according to an expert report.Advertisement
A new cinema, the linchpin of the Preston City Council redevelopment plan for the city, could cost upwards of £6.5 million to fit out.
Cinema experts dcinex were commissioned by the city council to scope out whether a city centre cinema would be the answer to Preston’s prayers.
The report reveals how four locations are being considered for a new multiplex, as well as the council’s favoured option of demolishing Preston Indoor Market to make way for a cinema and restaurant complex.
It also signals a potential death knell for both of Preston’s existing cinemas, saying the Vue at Capitol Centre and the Odeon at Riversway would struggle to compete with a newly-opened city centre cinema.
Vue Cinemas has already hinted at a move to the city centre, as a demolition notice has been lodged for the Capitol Centre site, although the cinema is refusing to say whether it will stay beyond 2015 or not.
Meanwhile the Odeon on the Docks has applied to serve alcohol to try and diversify its offering and attract more people in.
Co-authored by John Sullivan of dcinex Consulting – who are part-owners of the New Brighton cinema complex in the Wirral – he details how a cinema would be crucial to bringing more people into the city centre during the evenings.
He hails any redevelopment of the Markets as a cinema as potentially “game-changing” for Preston – saying it could support up to a 14-screen cinema with 2,500 seats.
Liverpool and Derby have both seen large-scale cinemas introduced in their city centres in the last five years and figures show an explosion in cinema-going as a result due to the state-of-the-art
facilities offered by the cinemas.
The Sullivan report outlines how discussions have been had about four other potential venues for a new cinema.
This gets a favourable report from Sullivan, who says the old TJ Hughes department store which faces the car park could be turned into a cinema and restaurant complex.
He says meetings with Benson Elliot, who own the centre, have seen “strong support and enthusiasm” for a multiplex cinema have been expressed. He says the shopping centre would be a favoured location due to its access to the railway station and existing footfall.
The drawback according to Sullivan is the Fishergate option would not link-in with the city council’s regeneration aims or be classed as an “iconic development.” But it would be one of the quickest options.
A niche cinema with between three and five screens could be built in the shopping centre. Sullivan says it “was difficult to understand the size and scale of a development”.
He says an art-house cinema could be feasible within the shopping centre but the city council needed to have words and make Aviva Investors – who own the centre – “up their inspirations”. At best St George’s could accommodate a seven screen cinema and bring in 270,000 bums on seats per year.
The long-mooted Queen Street retail park could become a Middlebrook-style development in Horwich/Bolton on the outskirts of the city centre.
Sullivan says a significant cinema could be built on the site but it was an out of the way location and had the problem of being accessed on foot through the main drinking area of the city – Church Street.
The grade-II listed building, formerly the Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, is an unlikely candidate for a cinema. But Sullivan says it could be a good location for an art-house cinema like FACT in Liverpool or the Quads Arts Centre in Derby.
His report also includes figures showing how the number of trips to the existing Preston cinemas has dropped from 738,000 in 2000 to 580,000 in 2013 – and these are expected to continue falling.
These figures run counter to UK-wide trends which show cinema-going staying steady since 2002 and beginning to climb again following a slump in 2006.
He says any cinema redevelopment would likely see the clustering of restaurants around it with the likes of Frankie and Benny’s, Chimichanga, Carluccio’s, Prezzo, La Tasca and Marino Lounge all willing to assemble alongside a cinema. The more restaurant spaces offered alongside any development the more likely it would pull in big money backing.
In the summing of his report Sullivan downplays development skepticism saying: “The introduction of a new multiplex of any size in the city centre of Preston will impact positively on total admissions. Admissions potential for the Preston catchment is a very minimum of 850,000 admits with a likely outcome of 1 million admissions in total. However, it would not be surprising to see this total climb to 1.2 million plus admissions if a suitable scintillating leisure offer was introduced.
“From enquiries we have made with developers it is clear this view is not necessarily shared by some cinema operators who maintain that admission levels at current levels is ‘the market’ and will not change with the introduction of a new multiplex.
“We consider this scenario to be inconceivable and patterns along the lines of Derby and Liverpool (most likely in between) will be the likely outcome.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “This independent cinema study was commissioned by Preston City Council to investigate the opportunity for a cinema-anchored development that could contribute to reinvigorating Preston city centre and become part of new social hub for the city.
“Alongside other evidence-based studies such as the Retail and Leisure Study, Quarterbridge Markets Report and Hotel Needs Assessment, it will be used to help inform the City Centre Plan and the development of the Markets Quarter.”
Plans for creating a cinema in the Market are currently with architects IBI Taylor Young Ltd to come up with a masterplan for the site.
Moving the Indoor Market traders into the outdoor Covered Market has seen major criticism of the proposals from many market traders who may take their fight to Parliament to stop the city council.
You can read the full dcinex report on the city council website.
What do you think about the proposals for a city centre cinema? Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below