Councillors are next month expected to give the go-ahead to a feasibility study linked to a proposed new cinema for Newmarket.
Cllr Robin Millar, deputy leader of Forest Heath District Council, told the town’s annual meeting on Monday it was clear that a cinema was at the top of the town’s wish list but the council had to look closely at the costs. He said at the moment there was a ‘funding gap’ of around £4 million.
Cllr Lance Stanbury, who is responsible for Forest Heath District Council’s planning and growth portfolio, told the Journal: “There has clearly been a huge amount of interest in having a cinema back in Newmarket and we support what would be a fantastic opportunity to make Newmarket a key destination for leisure but we need to do a proper business study to see whether the figures stack up.”
Cllr Stanbury suggested the council could be looking at providing the cinema building which would then be run by a cinema operation.
“With councils receiving less and less money from central government we have to be very commercially minded,” he said.
“ We are looking to try to ensure the vitality and vibrancy of Newmarket going forward but we have to look at what would be an investment and provide the council with an income.”
He said council-owned land in the town, which includes the TK Maxx site and The Guineas shopping centre could be looked at but if other landowners were interested that would be looked at too.
Asked if he felt the council had missed an opportunity when the former De Niro’s night club complex, which was once the Doric Cinema, was sold just over two years ago, Cllr Stanbury said: “Not really. The cinema industry has changed so much that a single screen operation would no longer be commercially viable. Multiplex operations are the way it has gone.”
He said the cabinet meeting on June 20 would be considering a recommendation to fund a feasibility study which would be just one stage in a number of stages.
“We have got to be completely open-minded as we determine whether to go ahead,” he said.
Resident David Rippington, whose petitions asking the council to put a cinema back in Newmarket collected some 5,000 signatures, said he was heartened by the news that it was being given serious consideration.
“It is a step forward in the right direction,” he said.
Matt Eyre, chief operations officer of Cineworld, speaking at the opening of the new Ely Cineworld cinema earlier this month, said the company was ‘interested’ in Newmarket which it felt would be suitable for one of its Picture House-style cinemas which have three to four screens and restaurant and bar facilities.
A spokesman for Forest Heath council added: “A new cinema in Newmarket has been a desire for many in the community and we are looking into the viability of how best to deliver this with partners. This also gives us the opportunity to look at wider issues. At this point there are no detailed plans or agreed sites, but councillors will be discussing how to take this forward at the cabinet meeting on June 20.”