New cinema complex for Bishop Auckland?

It’s nearly 30 years since Bishop Auckland had its own cinema but things could be looking up thanks to a Government grant which would boost the project.

Will Bishop Auckland finally get a new multiplex cinema??

The major development in Tindale Cresent has already seen two major supermarket chains, Sainsbury’s and Tesco along with the building of Heritage Park, the new home of Bishop Auckland Football Club all open at the end of October 2010.

Recently planning permission was granted for a new KFC fast food restaurant and Marston’s Inns & Taverns to be built as part of the £45m development by Terrace Hill. With Bishop Auckland now having four major supermarkets and three smaller food chains it would support claims that the town could now sustain a cinema.

Original plans to build a bowling alley and a multiplex cinema were put on hold when the recession took hold at the beginning of last year however it is looking more likely if securing a Government grant could encourage cinema companies to invest.

In April 2009 local resident David Bloomfield launched a campaign on social networking website Facebook.  He formed the group after chatting with friends in the pub and admitted he was “overwhelmed” by the response.  So far, more than 4,200 people have backed a campaign to bring the big screen experience back to the residents of South West Durham.

David said: “It will create more jobs and increase the amount of money spent in the town.  The last film I saw in Bishop Auckland was Flash Gordon in 1980 at the old Odeon in town.  I’ve been waiting all my life for a new cinema in the town and, judging by the response on Facebook, a lot of others have been as well.  It would be amazing to see a modern cinema showing the latest 3D films in the town.”

Support the group by joining their facebook page

Regional Growth Fund

County Councillor Rob Yorke, chairman of South Durham Enterprise Agency, said a grant from the £1bn Regional Growth Fund could encourage cinema operators to look at Bishop Auckland.  The fund provides support for projects that offer “significant potential for sustainable economic growth and can create new private sector employment”.

“The fund will particularly help areas and communities currently dependent on the public sector make the transition to private sector led growth and prosperity,” according to the Government’s department for business, innovation and skills.

Rob Yorke said: “One of the criteria of the grant is to demonstrate strong public support. Well, this Facebook campaign does exactly that.  It’s still early days, but the hope is public money could help facilitate a project like this, which would otherwise struggle to get off the ground.”

The Enterprise Agency hopes to apply for a grant by the January 21 deadline.

Latest Update – 17th January 2010

Fast-food chain McDonalds have submitted plans to build an 85-seat drive-thru restaurant which would create up to 70 jobs.  It is to be part of the on-going Terrace Hill development in St Helens Auckland which has already seen planning permission given to a KFC and Marston’s.

The plans were submitted on 24th December and the council is consulting on them until the end of this month.

History of the last cinema in Tenters Street.

Odeon Cinema Tenters Street (1938 - 1983)

On 21st November 1938 a large free-standing cinema in Tenters Street opened its doors to the local people of Bishop Auckland.  The independent “Majestic Cinema” had a total of 1,385 seats in stalls and a balcony. It was a very wide cinema, with a proscenium width of 40 feet making it ideally suited to the Cinemascope ratio which was installed in later years. The Majestic had a ‘sister’ cinema in Darlington, which was also designed by architect Joshua Clayton and named Majestic.

Bought by Oscar Deutsch’s chain of Odeon Theatres on 12th March 1944, it was renamed Odeon on 2nd April 1946. Twinned in 1973, by adding a 123 seat mini-auditorium in the rear stalls, under the circle. Plans were to have two mini screens in the rear stalls, but the local Council insisted that there should be a passageway between the two mini auditoria and not just a dividing wall; lack of width precluded this and consequently only the one extra screen was added. The remainder of the rear stalls and all the front stalls was disused. The 600 seat Screen 1 in the former circle continued to be served by the original screen on the original stage.

It was very sad that the Rank Organisation saw fit to close the Odeon on 15th October 1983, as its operating loss was a paltry £10k in 1982; most cinemas made a loss that year and many ran up a deficit much greater than the Odeon, Bishop Auckland.

The truth was that the upstar MD of the company Chrichton Miller did not like Odeon being represented in small market towns like Bishop Auckland and he was determined that it would go, along with many other cinemas which (in time) would have recovered financially, but were not given the opportunity.

Ironically, in the same week that the Odeon closed, a brand new shopping centre and bus concourse opened right next door to the cinema.  The Odeon was derelict and dangerous when demolished in April 1995. A planned nightclub in the building never happened and the replacement building on the site became an Aldi superstore which is now B&M Bargains.

Leave a comment