AN organisation which promotes interest in all aspects of heritage cinema buildings has called for action to be taken on the rebuild of Lyme Regis’ fire-stricken Regent Cinema.
The Cinema Theatre Association (CTA), which has a proven track record for saving former cinemas as well as advising on their continued use, says it is “gravely concerned” about the future of the grade II listed Regent, which has remained closed and partially demolished since a major fire in 2016.
A statement from the CTA said: “The owners of the Regent, WTW-Scott Cinemas, pledged they would rebuild this iconic single screen cinema once the insurance claim had been settled.
“Five years on and with the insurance pay-out finally confirmed, there is still no sign of a rebuild.
“Conflicting rumours on the cinema’s future abound and the residents of Lyme Regis, desperate for the return of a full-time cinema, are feeling distressed at the lack of action.
“Enough is enough,” said Richard Gray, CTA casework chairperson.
“We appreciate rebuilding is a huge task, both technically and financially, but promises were made and this project should now be underway.
“Not only was the cinema a local landmark but it provided entertainment for locals as well as playing an important role in the local tourist industry, which this area of West Dorset relies upon.
“The saga of whether the cinema will be rebuilt or not has gone on for too long.”
The CTA’s main concern are the “conflicting rumours” that are circulating around the possible rebuild.
Their statement added: “WTW-Scott Cinemas have continually remained tight-lipped about what they are doing which doesn’t make for clarity.
“They even remained reticent when local media recently reported an unsubstantial rumour that the site was going to be sold off for luxury flats.
Regent owners ‘need to be open and transparent’
“We are talking about the rebuild of a cinema, not about state secrets.
“If there are problems in financing a rebuild, or if the owners wish to incorporate a couple of luxury flats to help finance the build, they need to be open and transparent.
“It would also help if they responded to enquiries either from the press or ourselves.
“WTW-Scott Cinemas have recently caused local concern by questioning if a rebuild of a single screen cinema would be economically viable.
“This is despite the fact that, even though five years have passed since the devastating fire, the local community are still passionate for a full time cinema to return to Lyme Regis.
“Add the additional fact that in a post pandemic world the ‘staycation’ will only increase further the popularity of Lyme as a tourist hot-spot, and a newly rebuilt cinema has an excellent chance to be economically viable.
“It should also be pointed out that the cinema is perfectly situated. Not only is it located at the top of the high street, next to the north entrance to Langmoor Gardens, which literally attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year for the unsurpassed view of the Cobb, but it’s also sited opposite the Uplyme Road which gives easy access to Honiton and Exeter. “Few cinemas in the land are so well positioned in their local environment.
“These are just some of the points that WTW-Scott Cinemas, local authorities and Historic England need to consider when discussing the rebuild.
“The Grade II listed frontage and foyer, which remains relatively undamaged, tantalisingly suggests what an asset this building can be to Lyme Regis, its community and visitors.
“Before the fire, the Regent operated profitably for 80 years.
“A rebuild, using modern materials and technology, would allow the Regent to entertain patrons for another 80 years.
“We request the owners bring the magic of cinema back to Lyme Regis.”
After LymeOnline recently raised questions over the future of the Regent, WTW Scott Cinemas said they were waiting to hear back from the town council, although they did not disclose what the council’s involvement – if any – entailed.
A statement from WTW Scott Cinemas said: “As soon as we have news we’ll make it public as we understand the upset this has caused for the town of Lyme Regis to have lost its cinema.”