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orion cinema art deco burgess hillOrion Cinema Seeks Long-Term Lease To Compete Against Potential New Multiplex
3rd November 2014

by Peter Chapman

The owner of Burgess Hill’s independent cinema and local campaigners, are calling on Mid Sussex District Council to award the Orion cinema a new long-term lease to secure its future. This comes as NewRiver Retail has revealed that an 8-screen multiplex cinema forms part of a multi-million pound redevelopment plan for the Martlets shopping centre.

Lee Allwood, owner of the Orion, spoke on BBC Radio Sussex last Friday:
“We welcome the change and modernisation of the town centre. The thing that disappoints us is that whenever the multiplex is mentioned, there seems to be an assumption that it automatically spells the end of the Orion Cinema, it doesn’t have to be the case and that’s certainly not our intention.”

When asked what help he would like from the council, Lee said:
“Any commercial operators moving into the new development are going to be offered long-term leases.  What we’re asking of our own landlord (MSDC) is the same thing, give us a long-term future in the Orion so that we can afford to invest in the building and provide the comfort and everything we would need to compete effectively with a multiplex.”

District Council leader Garry Wall responded:
I welcome his (Lee’s) comments that he thinks there’s room for competition.  We’ve been very supportive of the Orion cinema. They have a very good and supportive lease and the council recently made some improvements to the realm outside. If he thinks it’s a lease issue moving forward, then by all means, come and speak to us.”

save the orion cinema campaignSave The Orion Cinema Campaign
Burgess Hill resident Robert Eggleston started a ‘Save The Orion Cinema’ campaign in 2011 when it looked as though Mid Sussex District Council was going to hand over Cyprus Road car park to developers to build a super market. At that time, The Orion only had a one year lease which gave no certainty over its future. It was awarded a five year lease in 2013 but this will run out at the same time that a multiplex opens (planning permission pending).  

Robert Eggleston said, “I want to see investment in the town centre but it should be sympathetic to the town’s character and heritage. The Orion Cinema has operated from its Art Deco building since 1928 and for me it is really important that we try to keep this part of our historical heritage alive and kicking for future generations. Too many towns have lost their original Picture Houses and I don’t want the same to happen to The Orion in Burgess Hill. If I had my way, Mid Sussex District Council would be actively finding ways to expand The Orion so that we would not need a multiplex at all.

“But, if a multiplex comes, I’d like The Orion to have a better than evens chance of competing against it. To do this it needs a long lease from Mid Sussex District Council and time to invest in its facilities. A 10 year lease would give the operator certainty until at least 2024 or 2025 and it is very much in the power of Mid Sussex District Council to take this step.

“To demonstrate the strong sense of feeling and affection  that people have for The Orion I have now set up www.savetheorion.org which has a simple aim – to send Mid Sussex District Council the message that we want it to give The Orion a long term future. The first target is 1500 supporters which will mean that the Council has to, at least, discuss the issue. I hope it does more than that and actually acts on the concerns of local people. Please help by going to the website and adding your name.”

NewRiver Retail expects to submit their redevelopment plans to Mid Sussex District Council by the end of the year.

the orion cinema burgess hill

Spread the word that pressure needs to be put on MSDC to award the Orion cinema a new lease!

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below....
Would you like to see the Orion cinema awarded a long-term lease? Would you still use the Orion if a multiplex cinema were to come to the Martlets in the future? Does a town the size of Burgess Hill have enough demand for an 8-screen cinema?

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