A cinema for Newmarket is a step closer after Forest Heath District councillors agreed a £50,000 study should be carried out to find a feasible site.
Members of the council’s Cabinet heard at a meeting on Tuesday how a cinema and restaurants development in the centre of Newmarket could be commercially viable.
Cllr Lance Stanbury, Cabinet member for Planning and Growth, said, “There has clearly been a huge amount of interest in having a cinema back in Newmarket. The Cabinet supports this and sees the provision of a cinema and restaurant development as a fantastic opportunity to help continue to make Newmarket a key destination for leisure. From the figures we know there is a market for a cinema and supporting businesses in the centre of town. But we need to produce a proper business study to see whether the figures stack up and where the best site would be.”
Councillors considered whether the council could enable the building of the cinema by a developer, which would in turn be run by an operator with the council potentially acting as landlord. Councillors also considered how a viable scheme could be built and operated, and the potential role of the council in enabling the building of a cinema and associated restaurants.
Cllr Stanbury added: “With councils receiving less and less money from central Government we have to be very commercially minded. We are looking to try to ensure the vitality and vibrancy of Newmarket, but we have to look at what would be an investment and provide the council with an income. The move is part of our overall aim to boost encourage business, jobs and growth in the area while improving the quality of life and amenities for our communities.”
The council already has evidence that there could be a business case for an eventual operator. The figures for building and fitting out the cinema have yet to be established and will be needed in order to select the final site. Councillors agreed £50,000 funding for this work.
“We are in very early stages. The report explains the key stages before we know we have a project that can be built and this decision on commissioning the detailed site evaluation is only stage four,”
said Cllr Stanbury.
Following the findings of its own retail and leisure study published in November last year, the campaign organised by resident David Rippington – backed by more than 5,000 members of his social media page – and a pledge by Newmarket MP Matt Hancock to bring a cinema to the town, Forest Heath commissioned a specialist cinema research company, Cinema Next Consulting (CNC), to investigate the size of a potential cinema development and analyse key sites available in the town.
It reported that the town could support a 600-seat capacity cinema.
Research suggested annual admissions of between 124,900 and 202,800 for a four to six screen cinema.