TODAY marks four years since the Regent Cinema in Lyme Regis was destroyed in a fire and questions still hang over the building’s future.
The town stood in shock as it watched its 1930s Art Deco cinema engulfed in flames on March 22 2016.
At the height of the blaze, thick black smoke rising from the site could be seen for miles and eight crews from three counties worked to prevent the flames spreading to adjoining buildings.
Residents were visibly upset as they watched the incident unfold from the street.
The fire was started by an electrical fault in the recently-refurbished cinema; it completely destroyed the auditorium, which was later demolished, but fire doors largely protected the Grade II Listed frontage which still stands in Broad Street.
Following the blaze, owners Scott Cinemas said they had “every intention to rebuild the cinema to its former glory”.
However, the complex insurance claim took a year to finalise, described by Scott Cinemas as “a much longer process than we had hoped”.
The company later merged with Cornwall-based cinema chain WTW, forming WTW Scott Cinemas, and has since been working on plans for the rebuild of the Regent but has struggled to put together a scheme that is both financially and architecturally viable.
The latest official statement from WTW Scott Cinemas was released in August 2019, when it was suggested that the cinema could be rebuilt with two high-quality apartments to offset the costs.
At that time a spokesperson commented: “At this stage, we continue to work on designs for a potential rebuild of the cinema in Lyme Regis.
“Given the building’s listed status, the high costs of construction and the relatively low potential turnover of a single screen cinema in the area, any such rebuild has to be both architecturally and financially viable.
“We recently briefed the local authority on a range of design options and our current position, one option of which was a reinstated single-screen cinema with two high-quality apartments at the rear to offset the extremely high build costs.
“We continue to explore this, and other options.”