Blockbuster £20.8million bill hits council’s Eltham cinema scheme

Eltham cinema launch
Eltham MP Clive Efford, Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland, then-ceremonial mayor Olu Batatola, deputy leader Danny Thorpe and friends launch the cinema scheme

Greenwich Council’s flagship scheme to build a cinema in Eltham High Street has seen its costs rocket by nearly half after contractors demanded another £6.8 million to finish the job.

The scheme, which was originally costed at £14million, is now set to cost £20.8 million, according to papers for next week’s meeting of the council’s cabinet.

853 understands that Vue, which will operate the six-screen cinema, has doubled fit-out costs from £1.25m to £2.5m. Nandos and Pizza Express are also taking up space in the development.

The report to cabinet members states that ground water levels are higher than previously thought, and that since the original scheme was costed in 2015 “there has been widespread reported pressure in the construction market caused by strong demand for construction works, particularly in London, coupled with increased material prices and a lack of labour in the supply chain”.

Greenwich Time
Greenwich Time in 2015: The council has used the cinema in publicity featuring Labour MP Clive Efford

Cabinet members will be asked to approve the new deal with contractor Willmott Dixon at the meeting next Wednesday.

The council hopes the investment in a cinema, due to open in March 2019 will help rejuvenate Eltham High Street. The last cinema in the area, the Well Hall Coronet, shut in 2000. The last cinema on the high street itself closed in 1972.

A similar council-backed initiative saw the opening of the Greenwich Cinema – now the Picturehouse – in 1989. And Bexley Council has this week announced plans to turn the former Blockbuster Video store in Sidcup into a cinema.

But the Eltham project, on the site of a former Co-op department store, has been hit by controversies.

Last year it was mocked for spending £17,000 on a parade of Hollywood lookalikes to launch the start of the project.

The cinema’s neighbours are also unhappy about Vue’s plans to run films until 3am at weekends and on up to 25 weeknights each year, with both local MP Clive Efford and Conservative councillor Spencer Drury filing objections. A decision is set to be made at a licensing meeting next Monday.

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