A war of words has erupted over a leaflet which states the Bognor Regis cinema could close.
The town council has been distributing the leaflet – headed Bognor’s Picturedrome Under Threat! – about the risk to the historic building owned by the town council from the latest proposals for the Regis Centre site.
These ideas from both leisure consultants hired by Arun District Council and its favoured developer, St Modwen, foresee a multiplex cinema as part of an upgrading of the prime location.
The leaflet says the decision has been taken and would ‘undoubtedly kill off the Picturedrome’.
It asks people to vote if they want to see the cinema improved and ex-panded, if they want a multi-plex to be built on the Regis Centre car park, or if they would prefer an alternative leisure attraction there.
The town council bought the Picturedrome for £445,000 in October 2010 and has since spent a considerable sum on repairs.
It is leased to the Picturedrome Electric Theatre operator.
Furious Arun leader Cllr Gillian Brown branded the leaflet false and misleading and implying the district council had a strategy to kill off the Picturedrome.
“To try to frighten residents with a scare story about Arun working to kill the Picturedrome is a cynical attempt to trick them into believing they have to choose between a thriving town or a thriving Picturedrome.
“All the advice from experts in their field is that there is room for both in a booming Bognor,” she said.
“The town council propaganda fails to look at the big picture for Bognor and the once in a generation opportunity we have to transform the fortunes of our town.
“Arun residents can be certain this council is focused on devoting all its time and money to the regeneration of Bognor rather than producing misleading information and innuendo.
“There will be full and open public consultation and no decisions will be rushed.”
But Bognor’s town mayor, Cllr Jim Brooks, defended the leaflet and said it correctly stated the situation.
“I refute entirely that we are scare-mongering.
“We have every right to make our case known because we feel we are supporting our residents.
“Those we consulted were unanimous we should buy the cinema.
“There is a real danger that, if the multiplex goes ahead, it will kill off the Picturedrome because of the way the cinema business works.
“We would like to see it continue successfully,” he said.
“If the public support the St Modwen proposals when they are officially published, then we will reflect that.
“But it is not right to talk just about those proposals at the moment without the repercussions of them.
“We are simply doing that on behalf of our residents. We need to put the other side of the situation and the leaflet does just that.
“We are simply saying there are other attractions which people say they want – an ice rink, for example – which would complement the Picturedrome rather than compete with it.”
The proposed multiplex forms part of proposals to revitalise Bognor, with a range of suggested leisure attractions such as cafes, restaurants and bars.
Any surplus from the redevelopment and at Hothamton car park will be invested in improving and extending the Alexandra Theatre from some 350 seats to 500, and installing a fly tower above the stage.