Plans to build a new multiplex cinema in Grantham moved a step closer this week with cinema companies being invited to be considered to be the operator of the new complex.
And although the tenancy has been thrown open, current operator Reel still hopes it will be chosen as the preferred option.
Companies have until September 2 to let landowner South Kesteven District Council know if they are interested in running the new cinema and it is anticipated that a formal lease agreement could be signed in spring next year.
This timetable would see work on the St Catherine’s Road site begin in summer next year, with the cinema open 12 months later.
Leader of the council Councillor Bob Adams said: “We expect interest from a range of operators who are known to be active in the market at the moment.”
The Journal approached Reel this week to ask whether it is still interested in running the new multiplex when built.
A spokesman said: “Reel Cinemas has been committed to providing the local community with access to the latest blockbuster films for over the last 10 years, and we thank the people of Grantham for all their support.
“We understand that the council has certain procedures to undertake before a project can go to the next stage, and trust that these can be completed as soon as possible.
“We remain committed to providing new state-of-the-art cinema facilities in Grantham, and we will be hopefully working with the local council as their preferred operator in the future.”
The site is currently used as a council car park and until recently it also housed the Grantham Senior Citizens’ Club which has now moved to a temporary home at the Jubilee Church Life Centre.
Coun Adams said: “The senior citizens’ centre will be demolished and the agreement of the group to move to the church as a temporary measure was a great step forward for our plans.
“Work on a new senior citizens’ centre next to the Welham Street car park will begin as soon as possible.
“There may be a small amount of disruption for users of the car park whilst building work takes place, for which we apologise. However, the car park will remain open throughout the work and most of the ground floor, and all of the upper floors, will be unaffected.”
In May this year, councillors agreed to consider the opportunity to enhance the original cinema scheme by creating a ‘pedestrian gateway’. This would involve knocking down part of the existing council buildings and creating a walkway into St Peter’s Hill. Further work is being carried out to evaluate the benefits of this ambitious development, said SKDC.
“Surveys and other work to prepare the site have been going on for some time to make sure we are getting the best outcome for the town and the council’s investment,” said Coun Adams.
“We are committed to providing Grantham with a multiplex cinema which will provide a massive boost to the night time economy and be a springboard for the regeneration of the town centre. We will progress this as quickly as we can whilst ensuring that we get the very best value for money.”
The prospectus inviting expressions of interest from cinema operators reveals that the council considered a total of 10 possible sites for the development but the St Peter’s Hill area scored far more favourably than any of the others.
The document says that Grantham has a population of 44,000 and South Kesteven as a whole has 134,000 residents – a figure set to grow to 159,000 by 2036.
“It is expected that the new cinema will be able to attract patrons from a 30-minute drive area which contains a population of 250,000, which is a very good reason for an operator to want to come to Grantham,” added Coun Adams.
“The prospectus provides a very strong business case including critical success factors like connectivity to the town centre, nearby car parking, the overall attractiveness of the area, and the new restaurants that we seek to attract.”
The senior citizens are currently recruiting new members to assist with managing and planning the use of their new building, opening January 2017.