Published: 15:18, 27 September 2018
| Updated: 15:25, 27 September 2018
Plans to build a cinema in Whitstable have taken a step forward after gaining strong support from the town’s Harbour Board.
At a meeting on Friday, campaign group Cinema for Whitstable (CFW) put forward its proposal for the cinema – dubbed the South Quay Picture Box – alongside architects’s drawings showing how it might look.
The city council recently carried out a consultation to find new uses for the harbour’s South Quay Shed building, which is set to become a mixed-use community and commercial space incorporating shipping containers.
Results showed 90% of respondents want a cinema to feature in the building.
But after it emerged the plans were to show films of “local historical and community interest” instead of blockbusters, CFW launched its own poll to find the type of films people would like to see at the facility.
The group’s poll attracted more than 1,000 responses in just 36 hours – with blockbuster films securing a 9/10 approval rating, and family, classic and art house films also proving popular.
The council has previously said it would not be structurally feasible to build a “mainstream” cinema in the atrium of the building.
But CFW campaigner Chris Cornell explained on Friday that a modest, 40-seat facility could fit within a unit comprising just three shipping containers - and could provide a boost to the whole South Quay Shed project.
In its proposal, CFW said: “Our financial projections suggest that when at a cautious 50% occupancy on 22 screenings per week, with an average of £7 per ticket and £3 confectionary spend per person, we could make a working turnover of £164,000 per year, after the payment of 40% for distribution rights.
“There is huge demand here.
“Our survey showed that 26% of us visit the cinema at least once a month, with 39% heading to the pictures between six and 10 times per year.
“Imagine not having to get in the car and drive to Canterbury, Herne Bay or even Thanet to see a film. It’s incredibly exciting.
“We welcome the Harbour Board’s decision to work with us in exploring how a small independent cinema showing mainstream films could work on the site.
“We’ve a long way to go, but are encouraged that the council are listening.”
Cllr Neil Baker was among Harbour Board members who supported the plans.
He said: “The presentations given on Friday by those wanting to see a cinema in the town, suggesting a 40-or-so-seat facility in part of the South Quay Shed could work, were very welcome.
“One of the project’s main positives is its modular nature. The internal structure is a little like a giant set of Lego - bits can be moved about and changed around depending on what is wanted. There may be artists, food outlets, potters, woodworkers.
“A cinema could increase footfall at all times of the year, and this would clearly provide a boost to those trading from other units.
“Developments with a mix of different businesses benefit from having an anchor - and a cinema could be the seven-daya-week, 52-weeks-a-year anchor that helps ensure the viability, sustainability and usability of the whole project.”
Discussions are now due to take place between the CFW and harbour development staff.
Detailed proposals are expected to be presented to a future Harbour Board meeting, when details of the wider project will also be considered.