Bognor Regis Herald — Picturedrome Cinema Fourth Screen Taking Shape

Steel frame takes shape for Fourth Screen

In spite of some early difficulties the new cinema extension at the Picturedrome Cinema is beginning to take shape.

The project is currently 11 weeks behind schedule due to unforeseen circumstances but the contractors are still determined to bring the project in on time.

The Council is also keeping strict tabs on the cost of the 4th screen project which is being paid for by a low cost public service loan repaid from income received by the holding company from e.g. rents paid by tenants such as the cinema operator and not adding to the precept paid by local taxpayers in their Council Tax.

A brief history of the Picturedrome Expansion project

In the same year as the opening of the Bognor Regis pier in 1886 ,and just a brief stroll away, the Bognor Regis new assembly rooms were constructed at a cost of £4,500. The building had novel and innovative marketing features with its octagonal lantern tower which at one time housed a revolving light operated by a boy pedaling a bicycle type mechanism advertising its presence for miles around. The assembly rooms were used in the early days for a variety of purposes including stage shows, dancing, roller skating and community functions. However, in 1887 David Devant brought his first animatograph to the Town frightening local patrons who thought the galloping horses would leave the screen and crush them to death.

In 1911 the assembly rooms were renamed the Queens Hall commemorating the coronation of George V. The rooms were used as a barracks during the First World War but then taken over by a company called the Picturedrome (Bognor) Ltd. It was then in 1919 that the District Council approved plans to convert the Queens Hall into a full time cinema known as the Picturedrome.

Competition between the Picturedrome and the pier cinema was fierce even in the early 1900s and so by 1922 the pier and the Picturedrome came under the same ownership through the Bognor Pier Company. Over the following nine decades both the pier and the Picturedrome changed ownership many times and the pier in particular has deteriorated significantly having lost a significant part of its structure due to the ravages of the weather and the sea.

In September 2010 Bognor Regis Town Council made the decision, with the support of local electors, to purchase the Picturedrome building. At the time the decision was taken, the cinema was operating on a three month lease, with an application by the landlord to turn the auditorium into 3 flats. The planning application for conversion to flats was however refused and although the Picturedrome became Grade II listed in 2009, following continued concern about the long-term future of the venue, the Town Council purchased the freehold of the Picturedrome Cinema through the acquisition of the Bognor Pier Company.

For clarity it should be understood that the building was an asset of the Bognor Pier Company who for financial reasons would only sell the company, not just its assets. Consequently the Council purchased the Bognor Pier Company and its assets with the Council and its Councillors being the sole shareholders. The only Director of the Company being the Town Clerk and the Company secretary an employee of DCK Beavers, the Councils accountants.

With the cinema in the Council’s ownership, at the annual Town meeting of electors in April 2012 two members of the public proposed a resolution regarding the Picturedrome Cinema as follows: To protect the tax payer’s investment the Town Council as landlord should put in a planning application to add two further screens to the Picturedrome Cinema. After significant debate the vote was taken and the resolution was passed. The third screen was in fact installed at the cost of the tenant-operator.

Councillor praises Team effort

A Councillor commented that he is delighted to see progress after some very frustrating months which saw issues delay the project in ways that almost certainly could not have been reasonably anticipated. “I am unable for good and sound legal reasons to go into the details but I praise our Clerk, her team, the contractors for facing these full-on, getting back on line and keeping cost limits in mind. In the end we will get an enhanced, value-for-money 4 screen town-owned Picturedrome in which we, the operator and the public sector has invested delivering the best in cinema entertainment at affordable admission prices nearby areas cannot begin to match.”

The rest is, as you might say…..History!

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Jan Cosgrove

Jan Cosgrove

National Secretary of Fair Play for Children, Also runs Bognor Regis Herald online. Plus runs British Music Radio online