Rumours that the chain plans to sell its self-branded screens have fuelled hopes that the arts cinema is safe.
Cineworld purchased the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse in 2012, following assurances that the popular arts cinema would be able to retain its unique flavour and independence. But last year, the Office of Fair Trading referred the buyout to the Competition Commission, who concluded that Cineworld’s ownership of two cinemas in the region could push up prices and disadvantage customers.
Over 15,000 people signed a petition to save Cineworld-owned Picturehouses in Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds and Aberdeen from enforced sales as a result of the decision made by the Competition Commission. Despite the strong public opposition, both the Aberdeen and Bury cinemas have now been sold.
In Cambridge, where no decision has yet been announced, it now appears that a sale of Cineworld’s leisure centre cinema is being considered in order to protect the Picturehouse. The popular arts cinema, located in the city centre, not only offers a lively restaurant-bar and a broader range of films than the multiplex, but also runs educational and professional development courses, and special screenings for over-60s customers, parents with babies and viewers with hearing impairments and autism. These successful innovations, which are not provided by another cinemas in the region, are thought to have influenced Cineworld’s thinking.
Speculation has been fuelled by comments made by Tony Jones, founder of the Picturehouse chain and director of Cambridge Film Festival, who led the purchase of the Abbeygate cinema in Bury St Edmunds. Jones told Cambridge News that he had been interested in taking on the cinema, but a better solution had been found.
“I’m confident that cinema-going in Suffolk and Cambridge will be well represented by Abbeygate cinema and a Picturehouse.” Jones said. “I’m confident it will be resolved in the right way.”