ALMOST one year after plans to bring the latest film releases to the Guildhall were scrapped, a cinema will finally open today in Abingdon though only on a temporary basis.

The Friends of Abingdon have been working with an independent cinema to screen films in the Unicorn Theatre in Checker Walk this winter.

Determined to provide the town with a place to watch the latest movies, the civic society got in touch with The Regal in Evesham, an art-deco style cinema which has just celebrated its 85th birthday, about how to use the historic Abbey Building's theatre for screenings.

It came after a cinema plan for the Abbey House extension of the Guildhall was rejected by the town council in January when it was decided the scheme was financially unviable.

The £3.5m scheme was first proposed in 2013, with a 200-seat cinema set to form the anchor of a redevelopment of the hall, which would have also created a new cafe-bar and saw the building, now closed for more than two years, refurbished.

Work is set to start in the new year on a more limited £1 million revamp of the historic section of the building.

Bryan Brown, chairman of The Friends of Abingdon, said: “We are very pleased to welcome this new initiative which will provide a much-needed enhancement to leisure facilities in Abingdon-on-Thames as well as helping us to preserve the very special Abbey Buildings for enjoyment and use by the community.”

Currently the town's film lovers must travel to Oxford or Didcot if they want to catch the latest releases.

The theatre has just 92 seats, providing an intimate space with excellent acoustics. The screenings, which will take advantage of a state of the art digital projector and sound system, will be in addition to the normal drama productions and concerts in the Unicorn and will provide a boost for the Abbey Buildings’ funding during the winter season months when it is traditionally quiet.

When the plans were initially revealed in October, Ian Wiper, managing director of the Regal, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Friends to bring much needed cinema facilities to the town.

"It is our hope that eventually we will find a suitable permanent home in Abingdon. In the meantime, we look forward to a successful first season in these wonderful historic buildings”.

Things kick off at 10.30am today with a screening of family-friendly animation Ferdinand, with film lovers then able to enjoy the Paddington sequel at 3pm and Kenneth Branagh's new adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic whodunnit Murder on the Orient Express from 7.30pm.

Tickets will be just £6 for the morning 'family show' screening, with adult tickets £8, children £6 in the afternoon and £10 and £8, respectively, in the evening. Concessions are available.

To purchase tickets online or to view a full programme, which is set to include Hugh Jackman's new musical The Greatest Showman, visit