Cineworld takes over the owners of Bury’s Abbeygate Picturehouse

Pat Church outside the Abbeygate Picturehouse
Pat Church outside the Abbeygate Picturehouse
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The independent cinema chain that owns Bury St Edmunds’ historic Abbeygate Picturehouse has been taken over by Cineworld.

The deal announced yesterday means Cineworld now owns both the town’s cinemas, but the companies have promised ‘business as usual’ preserving the unique character of Picturehouse’s cinemas.

Manager Pat Church said after the newly refurbished Abbeygate Picturehouse’s 15 staff were told yesterday: “We’re the exact opposite of Cineworld and I think that’s the concept they like. It’s a market they could never break into in their own right.

“In the long term it gives us financial security. There are other things we want to do here, so it will improve that side of it.”

It is also a successful cinema niche – Cineworld says Picturehouse, with 20 cinemas nationwide, last year reported audited sales of £30.3 million, profit before tax of £2.5 million and gross assets of £35 million.

Stephen Wiener, Cineworld chief executive, said: “This acquisition gives us an opportunity to accelerate our growth by reaching new audiences in a high value and growing part of the market.

“We recognise that Picturehouse is valued by its customers and we look forward to supporting the business through the next phase of its development.”

Picturehouse’s founder director Lyn Goleby said: “The unique character of Picturehouse cinemas will remain and our team will continue to bring the widest range of film to customers.

“This acquisition by Cineworld will accelerate the development of further Picturehouse cinemas around the country.”

But customers are reserving judgement on the takeover.

Geoff Barton, who is involved with the Cathedral Film Society which has arranged showings at Abbeygate for six years, said: “It’s always the most charming, wonderful and welcoming place.

“It’s a whole different experience of going to the cinema and I hope we don’t get the bland corporate style taking over.”

Cineworld is Abbeygate Picturehouse’s 10th owner since it opened in 1959 and Mr Church has worked for them all.