FILM lovers in Abingdon have something to celebrate as the town’s council announce it is moving ahead with plans to finally bring a cinema to the Abbey Hall.

Although it falls short of a £3.5m extension of the Guildhall, which was scrapped last year and would have included a 200-seat cinema, the scheme could see the building reopen in time to screen the latest releases this summer.

Husband and wife Ian and Sue Wiper, who own independent cinema The Regal in Evesham, Worcestshire, wrote to Abingdon Town Council, who own the building, in January asking them to consider letting them use the Guildhall’s 1960s extension for screenings.

Mrs Wiper wrote: “Our plan for the Guildhall is to invest in state of the art projection and audio-visual equipment and a big retractable screen which we would remove at the end of our tenancy. We would also invest and install, at our expense, luxury seating.”

A formal offer has now been made to lease the building until the summer of 2020, and subject to negotiations over repair costs this has been recommended for approval by the authority's Finance and General Purposes Committee. It follows the success of The Regal’s temporary cinema in the Unicorn Theatre in Checker Walk this winter, where almost 8,000 tickets have been sold.

Mr Wiper said: “We are delighted with this recommendation and look forward to working with the town council. If all goes as expected, we hope to launch in the summer of 2018 with Mama Mia! Here We Go Again."

In the longer term the Abbey Hall, which has been closed since 2015, is set to form part of a new ‘community hub’ in the town.

Oxfordshire County Council, which runs the library, and Abingdon Town Council unveiled an agreement to work more closely to join up public services within the town earlier this year.