Commission confirms order to sell the Abbeygate Picturehouse

Picture house founder Lyn Goleby.
Picture house founder Lyn Goleby.

The Abbeygate Picturehouse will have to be sold in spite of a public campaign against it.

The Competition Commission announced this morning that it stands by its original decision that Cineworld, which owns the Picturehouse group, would have to sell a cinema in Bury St edmunds, Cambridge and Aberdeen.

Picturehouse said: “Having carefully reviewed a range of financial and strategic considerations, Cineworld Group have made the difficult decision to sell The Belmont Picturehouse in Aberdeen and Abbeygate Picturehouse in Bury St Edmunds.

“Any sale will include honouring of advance tickets or reimbursing customers if this is not possible. We will also do our best to ensure that Memberships are honoured so that customers do not lose out from this decision.

“Whatever happens, each cinema will remain as a cinema.”

The company must still decide whether to sell the Arts Picturehouse or Cineworld in Cambridge.

The commission wanted the cinemas sold because it feared the lack of competition in the three towns would result in price rises.

Picturehouse managing director and co-founder Lyn Goleby said in Bury today: “Their final decision is no different to their initial decision even though we put forward a lot of new evidence.

“It’s ironic that Cineworld could operate quite happily when it was just Cineworld and this place was dying, but we come and put money into it, it’s thriving and it’s not OK.

“It’s a different market. It’s the National Theatre, the opera and all the event cinema we do that has been really important.

“We’ll try to do our best for the cinema and put it into good ownership,”

Abbeygate manager Pat Church, who has worked there for 48 years, said: “It’s disappointing. 13,700 people signed the petition and 600 people wrote to them on our behalf, including David Ruffley the MP, and they never took a blind bit of notice — and they’re supposed to be working in the best interests of the public.

“That’s nearly every member of our audience writing to them.

“On the positive side, because of that response, it does bode well for our future. What a good selling point it is to have all these people backing you before you start. The money has been spent and the audience created already.”

The buyers will be the 10th owners Pat has worked for since he started as a projectionist.

“There’s no doom and gloom in my outlook,” he added. “It’s another step into the future for us.”