Listed building makes a grand entrance to cinema

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A DERELICT listed building could get a new lease of life by being rejoined to the cinema it was once part of.

City Screen, the Ipswich based owners of Abbeygate Cinema in Hatter Street, has applied for planning permission and listed building consent for work to turn number four Hatter Street and York house into a smart new entrance for the cinema.

Number four has been derelict for about 15 years and has been a hairdressers and a cafe. York House is currently the cinema’s fire exit.

City Screen managing director Lyn Goleby said: “It’s going back to its original where the two were joined. We’re going to open up a grand entrance stairway from which you’ll enter the cinemas from the top of the banked seating.”

The work will also add a cafe and kitchen, new toilets and a function room on the upper front floor of number four, with a direct link to one of the screens.

Repair work has started ahead of the project and Abbeygate manager Pat Church, who joined the cinema as a projectionist in 1966, said: “The building was literally falling down. I don’t know how many more winters it would have survived. This has secured its future.”

The plan is to expose some of the building’s original architectural features, which have been hidden behind plasterboard walls and ceilings.

The existing cinema entrance, alongside the bingo hall, will become the fire exit and customers will enter through the pillared York house door and the door of number 4 on the other side of the bingo hall. They will enter the two auditoria through a high ceilinged open plan foyer.

The cinema was opened in 1923 by E H Bostock as the Central and became Abbeygate Cinema in 1959. It split into a two-screen cinema and bingo hall in 1971. Though it struggled to survive the 1970s, it outlived the Playhouse in Buttermarket which opened in 1925 and became a Co-op in 1958 (now Argos) and the Odeon on the site of Cornhill Walk from 1937 to 1984.