Save the ABC on Whiteladies Road!


Bristol City Council will be determining the fate of the Whiteladies cinema NEXT WEDNESDAY 21ST JANUARY 2004 at 2pm in the Cabot Room, Armada House, Telephone Avenue, off Baldwin Street BS1. map

This is to decide whether or not the cinema's owner, Medinbrand, should be granted Listed Building Consent for his plans to turn the cinema into a 'dry' health club - ie. one without a pool, spa or sauna.

The Council officers are recommending APPROVAL of these plans which is not good. However, it is the Committee members themselves who take the final decision and ANY INPUT YOU CAN MAKE AT THIS FINAL STAGE WILL INFLUENCE THEM.

What you can do.

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Keep Cinema Local is a new campaign with two aims:

1. We want to save the ABC Cinema on Whiteladies Road, Clifton, Bristol. This popular cinema has been sold to a developer who aims to turn it into a leisure club.
2. We aim to highlight the flow of cinemas out of our high streets. While we have no objection to out of town multiplexes per se, we do object to cinema owners placing covenants on the cinemas they sell which prevent those buildings being re-used as cinemas in the future.

(Click to see larger picture)

Road To Success

It seems that Odeon Group are no longer interested in running High Street cinemas but they are interested in running Multiplex sites. These are much more profitable. It appears that they are trying to rid themselves of as many High Street sites as possible.

It is our contention that the Whiteladies Road site does make a profit but it is not sufficient to tempt Odeon Group to keep the site. This is evidenced by the interest that other independent operators have shown in the site.

They have therefore sold the site to a property developer with a restrictive covenant preventing the site from being used as a cinema in the future. This has the advantage for Odeon of reducing any competition the site may provide if they were to be operating a competing multiplex site.

It allows the property developer to hide behind the covenant when presenting their plans to convert Whiteladies Road ABC to an upmarket Health Club.

It is attractive for them to do this because a Health Club generates more rental income and would therefore have a greater capital value than a cinema.

This means that to win we must pressurise Odeon in to publicly lifting the restrictive covenant. This could be done by a simple announcement followed by written confirmation to any future user that they would not seek to enforce their covenant.

This would stop the developer from hiding behind this covenant when presenting his alternative plans.

Odeon will be affected by all the adverse PR that they are currently receiving. They will also be aware that their chances of operating the proposed Central Bristol Multiplex site may be compromised by their negative image within Bristol.

We think that before any announcement were made by Odeon Group regarding the restrictive covenant they would need to come to some sort of arrangement with the property developer for the loss in capital value generated by the removal of the restrictive covenant.

In the meantime it is extremely important to keep the pressure up. This should be done by continuing to write to Richard Segal at Odeon details below.

A further pressure point will be the developerís application for Listed Building Consent. He needs this before the Cinema can be converted to a Health Club. He is much more likely to want to do a deal with Odeon along the lines described above if he fails to get the necessary consent.

Once he applies it will therefore be important to campaign vociferously against the application.

If he loses he has the option of going to appeal but this is time-consuming and costly and he may begin to wonder whether it is all worthwhile.

The fight to save the ABC Whiteladies has national implications as Odeon tries to do the same thing with their other cinemas around the country. To date we know of a group in Reading who are campaigning with the support of their local MP to save their ABC Cinema, and a group in Walthamstow who have bought their cinema from ABC but are only able to show foreign language films (The restrictive covenant on this cinema has just been lifted!). There are links to both these groups on the links page of this site.

To win we need your help. See How you can help

History Of The Campaign To Save The ABC Cinema

The ABC Whiteladies Road is well loved by local residents who value the ability to go to the cinema without getting into their cars.

When it was first proposed towards the end of 1998 that the cinema was closed and developed as a leisure centre, campaigners were quick to bring the building to the attention of English Heritage. This resulted in the building being granted Grade II Listed Status in February 1999.

The decision to sell the site was then reviewed by ABC who announced that they planned to keep the cinema open. The future of the building then seemed secure.

ABC and Odeon Group then merged and a further round of sales of small cinemas seems to have followed.

In December 2000 campaigners realised that the site had been sold to a London based property developer who planned to covert it into a health and leisure centre.

Campaigners then met with the property developer to find out whether he would consider leasing the site to an independent operator. The property developer cited the restrictive covenant placed upon the site by Odeon/ABC when it was sold.

The intention of this restrictive covenant is to stop the building being used as a cinema in the future.

Campaigners believe that this issue is of national importance as it seems extraordinary that in order to reduce competition for their multiplex sites owners of High Street sites are stopping them being used as cinemas by independent operators.

This seems to go against the trend of providing local amenities available to the whole of the community rather than car based amenities which end up restricted to those with cars.

The main thrust of the campaign now is to prepare to fight the Listed Building Consent application that will be lodged at any point before the end of the year.

©2001 Keep Cinema Local
Keep Cinema Local, Clifton, Bristol, England


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