VOTE Cinema operator will be named very shortly

A new operator for the cinema in Bognor Regis should soon be revealed.

Talks between the town council and its preferred bidder are coming to an end.

Residents were told the news at Monday’s annual town meeting.

The talks about the 25-year lease are aimed at ensuring the future operator and the council are each aware of their responsibilities for the historic Grade II listed building.

Greg Burt, the chairman of the council’s policy and resources committee, said all councillors agreed it made moral and ethical sense to put the cinema’s future up for grabs once it had bought the building.

They believed it would have looked wrong to have simply given the operation until 2036 to the current operator and fellow councillor, Adam Cunard.

“Most councillors privately hope Mr Cunard will be the successful operator. We want him to be able to say he won it against competition because he made the best bid, not because he was given it by his mates on the town council,” said Cllr Burt.

“I hope Mr Cunard will be the operator of this building in the future. But we didn’t want to be accused of giving it to him.

“There is public money involved and, in the interests of transparency for the council taxpayer, councillors and for the current operator, we believed it would be best to go out and seek expressions of interest.”

Mr Cunard has run the cinema for almost four years but the past two have seen him exist on a series of three-month leases. This uncertainty has left him unable to invest heavily in the facilities.

Cllr Burt said the £445,000 cost of buying the building last October had come from a 25-year loan from the Public Works Loans Board.

A £200,000 fund built up by the council would be used for the initial repairs to the roof and walls and to install fire alarms.

Rent from the lease for the cinema and the currently empty kiosk and former cafe would meet ongoing maintenance.

Town mayor Sandra Daniells called the purchase of the Picturedrome historic.

“It’s the first property the town council has owned. A full programme of restoration is planned,” she said.