VOTE: Should the Picturedrome be protected from the threat of a multi-screen cinema at the Regis Centre?

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A fightback has begun to save the cinema in Bognor Regis.

Seven councillors spoke out against a threat to the Picturedrome at their first chance to comment on plans to build a rival big screen complex.

They warned allowing the multi-million pound proposal for a miniplex at the Regis Centre to become reality would mean the end for the much-loved current cinema.

But approval to continue to work on a leisure attraction – revealed in the Bognor Regis Observer last month – of a multi-screen cinema and bars, cafes and restaurants to complement the Regis Centre was decisively approved.

Two councillors – Francis Oppler and Simon McDougall – voted against the proposal, a further two councillors abstained and some 35 approved it.

The Picturedrome was bought by the town council in October 2010 for £445,000 to secure its future after a threat to turn its biggest auditorium into flats.

The town council has continued to invest heavily in restoring the distinctive 19th century building with its two screens and almost 500 seats to ensure it can continue to cater for film lovers around Bognor.

The cinema’s supporters used last Wednesday’s full meeting of Arun District Council to warn that work would be in vain if another cinema operator was allowed into the town.

Cllr Oppler (Bognor Orchard) said: “Why put something on the valuable site of the Regis Centre when we have already got a perfectly lovely and well used cinema?

“It is something the town council has invested a huge amount of money and hopes in.

“We will be seriously running the risk of undermining the economic viability of the Picturedrome and resulting in its closure.

“The outcry against that has already begun in the letters’ pages of the Bognor Regis Observer.”

Cllr McDougall (Bersted) said: “The Picturedrome is an iconic and valued building which is held in the heart of the people of Bognor and which they feel very strongly about.

“It is extremely well run and gives people the chance to watch films at affordable prices. Many people will not be able to afford the prices charged by a commercial operator of a miniplex.”

Cllr Paul Wells, of Bognor Regis Town Council, said: “There is a great momentum of people on internet social networking sites expressing their concern about a multiscreen cinema being built at the Regis Centre and jeopardising the work being done at the Picturedrome.”

Town and district councillors Roger Nash and Jeanette Warr submitted written questions which urged Arun to ensure the public had a full say in the new cinema proposals.

Cllr Sandra Daniells, also a town and district council member as well as a director of the Picturedrome, wanted an assurance the film industry’s distribution deals would be fully explained to councillors.

Not all the councillors who supported the Picturedrome were able to vote because of a conflict of interest with their role as town council members.

St Modwen is expected to produce plans for the public in the next few months.