New approach explored to bring cinema to Newmarket

28 Jul 2022

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West Suffolk Council is supporting the Jockey Club's aspiration of finding a way to bring a cinema to Newmarket following positive public feedback for the concept of developing screens in the Subscription Rooms.

Due to rising costs from the pandemic and cost of living increases, West Suffolk Council has accepted that its original scheme for building a cinema at The Guineas is no longer viable.

In 2019, following extensive research, the council had produced a fully costed and designed business case for a 4-screen cinema, 2 restaurants, car parking reconfiguration and public realm works in Newmarket town centre, adjacent to the Guineas Shopping Centre and multi-storey car park. In agreeing to progress each stage of the project, councillors were clear that the business case must be financially sustainable.

In March 2020, Covid-19 hit with widespread economic impacts and the council focused on providing support for local businesses and communities. The business case has now been updated to include the market impacts of the
pandemic and cost of living rises. This shows that constructions costs have risen, while audience levels and rent levels have fallen making the scheme financially unviable.

However, the council still aims to help bring a cinema to Newmarket and is sharing the information, reports and commercial contacts it gathered during the process with The Jockey Club.

The Jockey Club held a consultation in the Newmarket area and the concept of a boutique cinema at the Subscription Rooms had 85% support from the public who took part. Of course there are a number of issues, not least planning considerations and improvements needed to the fabric of the Grade II listed building.

Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of West Suffolk Council said: “Our aspiration to support Newmarket by helping to bring a cinema to the town remains firm, but we have been clear from the outset that it must be financially sustainable. That is now not possible with the scheme we have been exploring at the Guineas shopping centre due to a very significant deterioration in costs and income which means we need to look at new and alternative approaches.

I’m pleased that we are sharing the learning and feasibility work we have undertaken with the Jockey Club as they explore options for the Subscription Rooms and we will remain engaged in those conversations as they take place.”

Amy Starkey, Managing Director of the East Region Jockey Club, said: “The Jockey Club’s home is Newmarket, and we are keen to play our part in the town’s future. We had some excellent feedback to our recent consultation on concepts for how that could look, with firm support for the idea of a boutique cinema in the Subscription Rooms. This is a Grade II listed building in the town centre that used to house the Horseracing Museum, and we are having some really constructive conversations with West Suffolk Council and potential operators on possible ways of converting it to a cinema. It is early days yet, but the Council’s advice and support to date has been most helpful."

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