Cinema operators in talks to open £60 million venue at Peterborough's Queensgate Shopping Centre
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A deal looks to be nearing completion with a new operator for Peterborough’s Queensgate Shopping Centre’s £60 million cinema, it has been revealed.
Bosses of the shopping centre say they have been in talks with a number of operators following the collapse into administration five months ago of the independently-owned UK cinema chain Empire, the previously chosen operator.
Catherine Lambert, Centre Director at Queensgate, said: “We remain committed to bringing a state-of-the-art cinema into the centre of Peterborough.
“Queensgate has been working with a number of alternative operators to take the space.
“While negotiations are progressing positively, we are not in a position to provide any further detail at this stage.”
It is understood that an agreement with one operator could be signed in the near future.
Securing a new operator for the cinema will be a huge boost for the centre’s owners Invesco after years of uncertainty.
Construction work on the 10 screen IMAX cinema began in 2019 with the attraction built on the roof of the Queensgate and also occupying some of a 77,000 square feet extension of the Queensgate that was to include a new string of restaurants and retail units.
Empire, which operated 14 cinemas, was first announced as the operator for the Queensgate venue in July 2018 and it is understood that the work on the cinema was completed in 2019.
All that remained was for Empire to fit out the empty shell and to open the cinema to the public but all that followed was years of silence.
However, details released by the joint administrators, who were appointed on July 7 this year, reveal that behind the silence, Empire was desperately fighting to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns which saw the closure of its cinemas that resulted in ‘very material trading losses.’
In 2021, Barclays Bank refinanced Empire’s debts and provided it with a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL) The next year, Empire prepared a budget on the assumption that customer numbers would return to pre-pandemic levels. But admissions and revenue failed to fully recover.
A turnaround plan was devised in 2023 but numbers ‘remained depressed’ and pressure from creditors and supplies grew leading to a default on a loan agreement.