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At Arun District Council's Full Council meeting on 5th September a small group of young volunteers represented Bognor Regis Civic Society and handed a 10,868 signature petition to the Chairman, Councillor Ann Smee.

The petition asked the Council to help protect the future of the Picturedrome Cinema in Bognor Regis by refusing Landlord's/Landowner's permission for the establishment of any competing cinema on any land they own or control in the town while the Picturedrome remains in business.

This came about because Arun District Council and their development partner St. Modwen have announced that they propose to build a multiplex cinema on the Regis Centre site as part of their regeneration plans.  This has angered Bognor Regis people because it is well known that in towns where a multiplex is built, any small independent cinema nearly always goes out of business.

The reason for this is that cinema distributors will only supply first-run blockbuster films to one cinema in any town, and because they share in the ticket sales this is always the one with the highest seat prices. Hence the Picturedrome, with bargain seat prices from £2.50 will lose out and Bognor Regis people will be forced to pay £7 or more to see the latest films. Some may wait until a later date to see those films at the Picturedrome, but supporters say it is ludicrous to expect most people to do this.

Hence attendances will fall and the Picturedrome will fail as others have elsewhere - and then everybody will have no alternative but to pay more than twice the price they were before. Inevitably, this prospect is not popular.

In addition, not long ago Bognor Regis Town Council, with the approval of the townsfolk, bought the Picturedrome building to save it from being converted into flats.  The rent received from the cinema operator enables them to make the payments on borrowings for this of some £400,000.

Arun's proposals are considered to be undermining and endangering the finances of the Town Council because the potential failure of the cinema operator will mean no rent coming in yet still a massive mortgage to repay.  The building will be difficult to re-let for any alternative use and the end result will be increased council tax costs for the four Town Council wards' residents.  This prospect is not popular either.

Because of the large number of signatures, Arun will be obliged to debate their response to the petition in public sometime soon. Campaigners at the handover were concerned to hear senior Cabinet Member Norman Dingemans say, in an answer to a question from Chamber of Commerce Chairman Nick Stuart-Nicolson, that the Council were "not in the business of preventing competition."  Many said this sounded as if he has made up his mind already! Should he therefore declare a prejudicial interest before the debate?

September 2012

UPDATE 14th October 2012:  It was announced at the 12th October Bognor Regis Civic Society meeting that the petition is to be discussed by Arun District Council's Bognor Regis Regeneration Sub-Committee and their recommendations will be passed to the Full Council for their consideration at a future debate.  

The Civic Society has written to Arun indicating the reasons why they believe it is inappropriate for the matter to be considered by the Sub-Committee, which include public criticism of the Picturedrome by three of its members which, they say, indicates a prejudiced view.

The committee meeting is on Tuesday 16th October at 6pm in Bognor Regis Town Hall Council Chamber.

What happened at the meeting?  Click here to see.

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