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Astor Theatre in Deal may project new releases if grant funding can be approved in the absence of plans for the Regent Cinema

By Eleanor Perkins

Plans to open a community cinema at The Astor Theatre are gaining momentum while the town continues to wait for the Regent owners to make their next move.

The theatre’s artistic director James Tillett was approached by Dover District Council with the idea- which would run alongside its dramatic and artistic productions - at the end of the summer.

The authority agreed to provide £3,500 to help with set up costs and is now asking Deal Town Council to do the same.

Astor Theatre Artistic Director James Tillett was approached by the council about the idea (6050991)
Astor Theatre Artistic Director James Tillett was approached by the council about the idea (6050991)

To be known as The Astor Picturehouse, it will give screenings of recently released films in blu-ray and DVD format. There will be children’s movies and golden oldies on a Monday night.

The limited showings are due to theatre’s already crammed 2019 programme of events but could be increased in the future depending on its popularity.

If given the go ahead by Deal Town Council at its full council meeting on January 28, Mr Tillett will buy a new £4,000 screen and 150 furnished chairs costing £20 each, imported from China.

He also requires a download licence but says he could have it up and running by April.

“We wouldn’t be showing brand new films. We don’t have the space for a digital projector and it also come with a £30-£40,000 price tag, which we don’t have,” he said.

“We won’t be a cinema but our aim to is to offer Deal folk a cinema experience which I believe will tie in nicely with the live broadcasts that we do.”

Talks have been ongoing since July. A meeting was held between Mr Tillett, Dover district councillor Trevor Bartlet and the Mayor of Deal Cllr Nick Tomaszewski on October 1.

Cllr Bartlett said: “We just thought that since the Regent has not been forthcoming with any plans, this was something that we could help with, for the people of the town.”

The Astor Theatre in Deal (6050979)
The Astor Theatre in Deal (6050979)

It is understood that Deal Town Council has the funds in its captial funds budget. Councillors have asked for a business plan from Mr Tillett before approval is given.

Cllr Tomaszewski said: “It is shameful that our town has been without a cinema for many years now and the offer of funding from DDC and the management and administration of the project offered by Mr Tillett cannot be ignored.

“It is a proposition too good to snub.”

The equipment purchased with the grant would become the property of Deal Arts Management Community Interest Company which manages the district council owned Astor.

Now and Then The Regent , former Cinema and Bingo Hall Picture: Terry Scott (5938562)
Now and Then The Regent , former Cinema and Bingo Hall Picture: Terry Scott (5938562)

Residents in Deal have been waiting for a cinema since the freehold of the Regent was sold to James Wallace and Mark Digweed by Dover District Council in 2011.

The developers paid £385,000 on the proviso the building was restored to a cinema. They told the Mercury: “We’re very close to putting a new planning application in and DDC are aware of this. The plans are finalised and we’re just adding the finishing touches.

“We will be sharing more with the residents of Deal in the New Year.”

from left, James Wallace (cor) and Mark Digweed (cor) from Silver Screen Cinemas are planning on taking over the former Regent cinema on Deal seafront. Picture: Martin Apps (4904260)
from left, James Wallace (cor) and Mark Digweed (cor) from Silver Screen Cinemas are planning on taking over the former Regent cinema on Deal seafront. Picture: Martin Apps (4904260)

A district council spokesman said: “We can confirm that there are ongoing discussions about the provision of additional grant funding for the Astor Theatre for community cinema.

“In a separate matter, the council is currently considering its next course of action with regards to the Regent in the town.”

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