When Hoylake Community Cinema started in 2011 it was hoped, of course, that people would like it. They did. It has been a resounding success and enjoys tremendous support from the community. People travel surprising distances to come to it!
When a neighbourhood plan survey conducted by community planning forum Hoylake Vision showed that a lot of people felt that the old cinemas were greatly missed, and that a new cinema would be supported, the very real question “could we have a permanent cinema in Hoylake?” came to the fore.
Is that a pipe dream? Can small towns really do that when the multiplexes have the market sewn up? Is the market still there?
Where do we start?
The first step was obvious; speak to a professional.
So we met the people at Light Cinema New Brighton and the response was surprising. Not only did they love what we’ve been doing in Hoylake, but would like to explore the possibility of a single screen cinema in Hoylake; a sort of ‘screen nine’ of The Light New Brighton.
Programing could include mainstream fare but also the kind of classic, specialist and independent offer that we have shown is so popular with films like The Lives of Others; Spirited Away; North by NorthWest; The Dish, The Lunchbox and Osama.
Crucially, it would also include live streamed content. World class opera, theatre, arts, sport and music events. We could draw people in to Hoylake from across the region, particularly West Wirral. There is nothing else like it. And there is a demand.
We have an investor, funding the cinema component of the development, and then operating it over the long term.
And here is the key to the whole project. With a tenant operator already on board, the viability of the scheme is much stronger. And where there is a cinema, there is a restaurant. A reliable income stream. Exactly what a developer needs to make that investment.
But where could it be?
It is always worth looking back in time and for this project there is a clear precedent. The old Cannon cinema, formerly the Pavilion Theatre and Winter Gardens, had been behind the old lifeboat station, currently the home of the Hoylake Lifeboat Museum. At one point, the entrance to the cinema was the old lighthouse, a ‘beacon for the coast’, now demolished.
So we spoke to the owners of the lifeboat building and they, too, are fully supportive.
We have a building, and we have land.
We also have the support of John Parr, founder of the museum and owner of key artefacts, including the wonderful Chapman boat, as well as the current Trustees of the Lifeboat Museum. Local CIC Hoylake Village Life and Hoylake and Meols in Bloom have also declared support. Professor Steve Harding, renowned expert on Viking heritage or the area is supportive too. Could we include artefacts and references to the area’s ancient history?
Architects Falconer Chester Hall kindly ran us some spatial viability plans to demonstrate that we could fit a 120 seat auditorium there. We can. And more…
Along with the adjacent triangle of land it’s a big site. Big enough for a cinema. Big enough to display heritage artefacts, even a boat; big enough for a bistro and restaurant alongside the cinema. And big enough for some exhibition and gallery space.
It is certainly ambitious, but the potential is very real.
We have met with officers from MBC; we have professional planning advisers, development expertise, architecture and design professionals. All helping us steer this towards attracting the kind of investment needed to realise it.
It is not a community arts centre, it will be commercially funded and run, but we do want a strong community ethos within it. Which is why our steering group want to drive the project forward and ensure the development meets the expectations of the community, in terms of design, quality, and leisure offer.
It will certainly provide a very high quality facility that local organisations and businesses can use. We need your support, your ideas, your help.
What do you think?
We certainly hope you’ll like the idea, and we realise some people won’t! We want to hear all your comments… Please leave your comments below… and if you do support the project please click here to add your name to the list!