‘Bold’ £20.8million Eltham cinema scheme gets new council backing

Eltham cinema render
The six-screen cinema is due to open in March 2019

Greenwich Council leader Denise Hyland has called its plan to build a cinema in Eltham “bold” as senior councillors approved spending an extra £6.8 million on the scheme.

Costs of the scheme have shot up from £14million to £20.8million because of construction issues and operator Vue doubling the fit-out costs.

The council sees the scheme as central to its aim of rejuvenating Eltham High Street. As well as a six-screen cinema, the complex also includes restuarants from Nando’s, Pizza Express and a “sky bar”. It is due to open in March 2019.

Hyland told Wednesday evening’s cabinet meeting that “building cinemas isn’t something councils do every day”.

“If you want to regenerate a town, it is a bold thing to do,” she said.

“I’m hoping it will regenerate Eltham and that people will enjoy it and the restaurants.”

Introducing Greenwich’s senior officer in charge of regeneration, Pippa Hack, Hyland said the cost overrun was “a very familiar situation”.

‘Significant inflation’

Hack told cabinet members that design changes had led to the increase in costs, together with “significant inflation” in the construction market, which meant that tenders for the job had come back higher than first expected.

Asked by cabinet member David Gardner if she could be absolutely sure that £20.8million was “the final figure”, Hack said yes, as cabinet agreement would lead to the council signing a fixed-price contract with construction firm Wilmott Dixon.

But Hyland cut in, saying: “There’s always an exception and that could still hit us – these things happen.”

The cinema would be the first in Eltham High Street since an ABC on the corner of Passey Place closed in 1972. The last cinema in Eltham, the Well Hall Coronet, went dark in January 2000, with a gym opening in the former auditorium 15 years later.

On Monday night, a licensing committee allowed Vue to open the cinema to 2am at weekends with an extra 12 weeknight openings until 2am for special events. The company had wanted to be allowed to open until 3am at weekends and on 25 weeknights.

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