Empire Cinemas has been revealed as the operator of a planned 10-screen cinema in a £60 million extension of Peterborough’s Queensgate shopping centre that will help create 200 jobs.
The independently owned Empire says the new cinema will feature IMAX screens and its own large format Impact screens.
It says the planned cinema will be fitted out with a choice of luxury seating that includes double sofas, or individual electric recliners.
The deal with Empire has been agreed by Queensgate owners Invesco Real Estate and its centre managers Lendlease.
It comes a year after the collapse of talks with Odeon, which had been named as the cinema operator in 2015.
The new cinema will be the anchor for a 77,000 sq ft extension of the Queensgate centre that will bring in a string of new restaurants and leisure operators and create 200 jobs once construction is completed - a 10 per cent rise on the number of people currently working in the centre.
This will be our first cinema in the region, so will serve as a flagship for the community.Justin Ribbons, chief executive, Empire
A date for the opening of the cinema has not yet been set, and a start date for construction work is still being agreed.
In addition to signing Empire, fashion retailer River Island is to expand into a new 11,600 sq ft store at Queensgate. It will join Joules in using part of the former BHS department store units.
The extension will be carried out jointly with John Lewis, which is releasing its under-used storage space to create a refurbished offering. In addition, Next has given its support to the plans and will move into one of the new stores.
Justin Ribbons, chief executive of Empire Cinemas, said: “We are very delighted to be bringing our memorable cinema experience to Peterborough.
“This will be our first cinema in the region, so will serve as a flagship for the community, providing visitors with the best quality screens, seating and sound.”
Empire Cinemas operates 14 cinemas - a total of 129 screens - in the UK and seeks to cater for all the family with various offers.
These range from Empire JNRS, which offer families the chance to see a family favourite every weekend for pocket money prices, Empire Seniors where the over-60s can watch a selection of the best recent and classic films every Wednesday and Empire Parent and Baby screenings.
Guy Thomas, head of retail at Lendlease, said: “This is an exciting milestone for Queensgate.
“The extension will cement the centre’s appeal as a retail and leisure destination on a regional basis by adding a significant leisure component and creating new stores that meet modern retailer requirements.”
He added: “Empire Cinemas is the perfect partner and will bring to Peterborough city centre a first-class cinema experience.”
Councillor John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council, said: “I am delighted with the announcement.
“A lot of people poured cold water on the idea that we could have an all singing, all dancing cinema in the city centre.
“It will have 10 screens and with all the mod cons.
“It really does up the offer in the city centre at a time when most city centres are struggling.
“Peterborough is bucking the trend.
“The cinema will be a great asset for the city. It is something for which we have been waiting for some time.
Coun Holdich added: “A cinema of this size and quality will encourage more people into the city centre during the day and in the evenings .
“The development at Queensgate will mean many more jobs in Peterborough and more footfall for retailers in the city.”
Simon Machen, the council’s corporate director, growth and regeneration, (pictured) said: “This is excellent news and demonstrates the continued strength of Peterborough city centre as a major retail and leisure destination in the region.
“The Queensgate Centre already has a strong reputation, enhanced by recent investment and an improved retail offer.
“Now Peterborough will finally see a cinema in the heart of the city centre and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it completed.”
The announcement of the cinema operator is the latest in a run of successes for Queensgate.
Over the last 12 months, the shopping centre has welcomed a number of new store signings and expansions including Joules, Smiggle, Pandora, New Look, Ann Summers, Yankee Candle and Sharps Bedrooms.
The centre has also just completed an £8 million refurbishment, creating what it says is a brighter more contemporary shopping environment for visitors.
Plans to install a cinema in the Queensgate shopping centre were first unveiled in 2015 when the cost for the project was put at £30 million.
A Lendlease spokeswoman said: “The new £60 million figure is the total cost of the extension including all the construction and development elements – hence why this is larger than originally stated.
She added: “Timings for work to start and finish are still being finalised as we are awaiting one final element to be confirmed.”
The plans were approved by the city council’s planning committee in 2015, which also gave the green light to a rival cinema-led development on the neighbouring North Westgate site.
The decision prompted Peter Hawksworth, chairman of Hawksworth Securities, which had put together the North Westgate plans, to unsuccessfully challenge the council’s decision in the High Court, claiming two cinemas in such close proximity would not be viable.
He said the decision effectively scuppered his plans as Queensgate was well ahead in the race to build a cinema.
Since then, the city council has taken on the North Westgate regeneration and has vowed to invest £15million for land purchases and says a cinema is not needed to ensure the site’s long awaited development.