Friday, 13 November 2009

New Venue Is A Vision For Newbury's Future

Film fans have been celebrating in Newbury this weekend after the opening of a dedicated 7-screen cinema.

Over 1,000 people attended the gala evening with local dignitaries to watch 'A Christmas Carol' starring Jim Carrey.

The cinema is an anchor venue forming a key part of the Newbury Vision 2025 project which includes improvement of the Broadway and the £130m Parkway leisure and retail development.

It offers latest technologies including state-of-the-art projection and sound systems which will feature heavily as a slate of 3D offerings are released in the upcoming season.

Vue Entertainment CEO, Tim Richards, said he was delighted with the result and boasted of an "unrivalled level of cinema entertainment in a unique environment".

Pangbourne's Cllr Pamela Bale gave a more formal comment:
"This is an exciting development for Newbury which has received huge public support and will provide great benefits both culturally and to the local economy."
And Conor O’Gallagher, director of development company Alanis, said, "This is a big thing for Newbury, and people have been waiting a long time."

Political Battle At An End

The occasion marks the culmination of a protracted 10-year battle and has been the cause of much heated debate among politicians in West Berkshire since the previous cinema shut its' doors for the last time in 1998.

Back in 2003 the bubbling controversy was stirred when the issue became a key issue during local elections and LibDems claimed their success was a 'ringing endorsement' of public support for the scheme designed under their leadership.

It rumbled on through during the 2005 general election when now-MP, Tory Richard Benyon accused LibDems of "dishonest campaigning" and falling into negativity as he denied opposing the cinema in the town.

Mr Benyon said he "questioned the need for public money to subsidise the operator," even after then-MP David Rendel argued that the finalised plan "would come at no extra cost to the taxpayer."

Yet only two years later after a power shift, as a hold was put on the plans, new Conservative council leader Cllr Graham Jones admitted concerns about the ability of The Kennet Centre to deliver on commitments. He publicly stated his party was considering reopening the planning process by actively investigating other locations as a potential site for a cinema.

The matter nearly descended into farce when Mag Williams, manager of site owners Kennet Shopping, stepped in to accuse politicians on both sides of 'misinforming the public about the plans' just as the first building works were getting under under way.

LibDems had been excluded from a key scrutiny committee by the Conservative council as they sought to renegotiate part of the contract agreed in 2003 to insert a 'timetable for delivery' guaranteeing £1/2m completion payment if the venue was open by December 2009.


Cllr Rendel said attending the opening after years of delay was "a great delight" which will satisfy one of the biggest grumbles among all age-groups locally, but issued a warning about continuing secrecy among Conservatives.

Elsewhere commenters on the public forum have given a decidedly mixed reaction to the cinema: in one thread 'Brian' says he's "actually getting quite excited," while 'Polo' is frustrated that Newbury is getting left behind, but in another people are avoiding judgement until the retail units are filled and open.

Meanwhile Paul Walter sidestepped the politics to have a look at the new building. He thinks a great show will be provided, though not quite the one you first imagined!


For information on current showings at Newbury Vue visit their listings page.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know Newbury had a new-fangled cinema. That's good news for them.


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