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Cinema plan to make costly civic hall turn a profit
WANTAGE Civic Hall could become the home of a new cinema and conference centre after a £100,000 investment.
The Vale of White Horse District Council which owns the building has earmarked section 106 developer money for a revamp.
The Civic Hall currently costs the tax payer more than £100,000 a year to run, and councillors are hoping to make it profitable.
A business plan is currently being produced by the council which it hopes to publish in the spring.
Wantage Mayor Charlotte Dickson said: “The Civic Hall will hopefully be turned around and become a profitable enterprise and more use to the community.
“People have been asking for a cinema for some time now.”
The Regent Cinema in Newbury Street closed in 2005, because the owners said it was not profitable, and it became Shush nightclub in 2011.
Jeremy Tait, of the Friends of Wantage Cinema, said: “At the moment the largest room in the hall is far too big for a once-a-month cinema with 30 to 50 people.
“The next biggest room is a perfect size but the ceiling is too low.
“But there are some interesting possibilities there, and we would be very keen to discuss them with our members.”
He said he would be contacting 300 people who registered their interest with the group.
Vale councillor for Wantage Fiona Roper said: “It is great that we are investing in such a great facility. Everybody I speak to says ‘Why can’t Wantage have a Cornerstone?’ “This is the obvious place for a cinema to go.
“I have had a couple of meetings with the Friends of Wantage Cinema to discuss their possible involvement and they now need to consult with their members.”
The revamp could also see the Civic Hall’s name changed, and an advertising campaign to encourage people to rent it out.
It is currently used by King Alfred’s School and by community groups for activities such as life drawing and sports classes.
There is already some redecoration planned for January with new carpets going in.
Vale council leader Matthew Barber said he could not guarantee exactly what a renovation would entail until the business plan is published next year.
He said: “The hall has been at risk in the past but we are determined to make a go of it.
“We need to appeal to the business community and we are looking at rebranding the whole thing as a theatre and conference centre. Even if we relaunch it completely next year, it will require more investment over time.”
He added that the Vale’s business plan would have to meet legal requirements for the section 106 money to be released.
- To contact the Friends of Wantage Cinema, email email@example.com