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Plans unveiled for new town centre cinema and theatre

The glory days of town centre movie screenings could be rekindled next year, as a long-running project to restore the Elite Cinema finally looks set to reach the final act.

The privately-owned building, which was built in 1931, has stood empty since its days as a night-club drew to a close, and several bids to breathe it back to life have failed - but a European grant could be about to give it a flicker of hope.

Owner Mick Gallimore had been working with an Indian restaurant chain to create a high-quality dining facility, and extended what was the upper half of the cinema hall to include a kitchen.

But since the restaurant plan fell through several years ago, the vision of returning the building to its original use as a cinema, theatre and performance space could soon become a reality - with the new kitchen attachment becoming a bar.

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Plans unveiled for new town centre cinema and theatre coronavirus 第1张

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Freshly-made designs for the huge indoor space, which still has many of its tiers, along with toilets and a projection room, show a potential 144 plush reclining seats - which would all face the main stage.

The stage would be equipped with a roll-down cinema screen, which would make the building genuinely dual purpose.

Plans unveiled for new town centre cinema and theatre coronavirus 第2张The new cinema and theatre would have its own bar

Mr Gallimore, who is working with a specialist Suffolk-based architect to finalise the design to submit it as part of the grant application, says he wants the building to cater for as many uses as possible.

He said: We want to put something back into the town. At the moment, there's nothing for people to come into Ashbourne for, apart from little shops.

"It isn't a destination, we tend to stick on the edge of the Peak District and there's nothing but the shopping to attract people and to bring them in.

Plans unveiled for new town centre cinema and theatre coronavirus 第3张The building still has tiers and a projection room

"The idea here is, as well as just doing cinema, we're also putting in facilities for anything you need a seated audience for.

"You could run bingo in it, you could do fashion shows, anything.

"We're going to put theatre lighting in, so it would also be possible to do theatre productions and that type of thing."

The current blueprint would involve extending each of the existing tiers to accommodate larger, more luxurious seats, and extending the seating area out to create the 144 seats overall.

Plans unveiled for new town centre cinema and theatre coronavirus 第4张The stage area would be fitted with a removable screen for cinema

Disabled access from Market Place to the rear of the building is included in the design, and a general box office would be accessed from the main double door at the front of the historic building.

Mr Gallimore said: "It's taking shape, but it's taking a lot of doing.

"The problems we've had before, is that we went so far with it and then we've had people come forward who wanted to do something with the building but they've fallen through.

"But I would sooner see a performance space than another restaurant."

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Mr Gallimore, who has owned the building since the mid-1970s, says he is now committed to getting the project off the ground himself, and he is hoping for success in applying for what could be the last European grant paid out by the Rural Payments Agency.

He is now interested in talking to local groups in the town that would be interested in making the most of the space, when it is finally completed - which he hopes could be as soon as next year.

He said: "What we need now is public support in applying for the grants.

"I think it could really work here. When you see places like The Ritz at Belper, the small cinema in Wirksworth, Cinebowl in Uttoxeter, it's clear how it could work."

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