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Ashford Borough Council appoints The Big Picture Limited to run Picturehouse cinema at Elwick Place

A council has selected a new operator to take over the running of a struggling town centre cinema.

In February, Cineworld-owned Picturehouse decided to end its lease at its site at Elwick Place, Ashford, which opened in 2018.

Picturehouse at Elwick Place in Ashford is being taken over by Ashford Borough Council
Picturehouse at Elwick Place in Ashford is being taken over by Ashford Borough Council

At the same time, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) revealed it would take the cinema on, saving it from closure and 26 jobs being lost.

Now, the authority has confirmed the day-to-day running of the six-screen cinema will be managed by The Big Picture Limited, an independent leisure consultancy.

This company, the council says, was selected due to The Big Picture Limited’s experience within the industry and due to its previous work on similar projects in Sittingbourne, Sidcup and Bexley, as well as others around the county.

The move was approved by councillors at an extraordinary meeting of the council this month, where it was also revealed a new holding company has been set up, Ashford Cinema Ltd (ACL), which the Picturehouse assets will be transferred into.

A spokesman for the authority said: “Council members agreed the assignment of the Picturehouse lease to ACL as part of a transfer of all cinema operations and assets, including staff, to support the future vitality and economic development of Ashford town centre.

The Big Picture Limited is now set to operate the site
The Big Picture Limited is now set to operate the site

“They also agreed that ACL enters into a service agreement with The Big Picture Limited for them to manage the day-to-day operation of the cinema on their behalf.

“Further updates will be provided in due course.”

The leader of ABC, Cllr Noel Ovenden (Ash Ind), added: “We are pleased to be able to keep the cinema operating for the benefit of our residents, wider community, town centre tenants and regular cinema-goers.”

Timescales on when the lease will be handed over are currently being discussed but it has been suggested it will take place in April.

It was previously thought the switch would take place before Easter.

Cllr Noel Ovenden, leader of ABC
Cllr Noel Ovenden, leader of ABC

In recent weeks, concerns have been raised by residents about the capability of ABC to run the struggling cinema, but the authority says stepping in to operate the facility is "the only viable option in the short term".

The site will run under a new name once the takeover has been completed – but this is not yet known.

Picturehouse opened in 2018 and was the anchor tenant on the £75m Elwick Place complex – which is owned by ABC.

It is also home to Travelodge, Matches, Virtual Recreation and Snap Fitness, but has been hit by a number of closures, including Macknade and Leo and Sage.

Cineworld also operates a second site in Ashford, at Eureka Leisure Park, which is to remain open.

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