Abingdon-on-Thames Council is working with Oxfordshire County Council and the Vale of White Horse District Council on proposals to create a community hub in the Abbey Hall which would accommodate multiple public services such as the library, information centre, joint reception and other council services. This work is ongoing but will still take some time to come to fruition, the likely timing for building works to commence being the summer of 2020.
Over the last couple of months the Council has been negotiating with the Regal Cinema of Evesham regarding the use of the Abbey Hall as a cinema until the summer of 2020. The Regal operates a very successful and well-established cinema in Evesham. The Regal is reputed to be the most successful single screen cinema in the UK by admissions, accessibility and customer service. For the last three months the Regal has been operating a single screen cinema at the Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon and it has already attracted almost 8,000 customers.
The Town Council has now received a formal offer from the Regal Cinema to rent the Abbey Hall for the next couple of years. The offer was considered by the Town Council’s Finance & General Purposes Committee at its meeting of 27th March 2018 and the Council and the Regal are pleased to announce that it has been recommended that the Town Council accept this offer.
There are still a number of matters which need to be resolved before an agreement can be signed, including some modest but essential updates to the Abbey Hall. There is a willingness from both parties to work hard to resolve the outstanding issues. If this is achieved then professional cinema, which will include live performances and satellite broadcasts of live events, will open at the Abbey Hall this summer to work alongside the Unicorn. This will mean that the Abbey Hall is brought back in to community use earlier than originally anticipated and the income from the operation will help meet the running costs of the Guildhall itself, which is also due to re-open following improvement works.
The Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and Leader of the Council, Cllr Mike Badcock, stated: “We remain committed and enthused by our long-term ambition for a community hub at the Abbey Hall but equally wish to see cinema again firmly established in Abingdon. We are therefore delighted to be working with the Regal Cinema of Evesham in seeking to make good use of the Abbey Hall over the next couple of years. We know that the Regal have an excellent track record in Evesham and more recently at the Unicorn. Their proposal to rent the Abbey Hall for cinema has been positively received by the Finance and General Purposes Committee and we are working hard to ensure that the outstanding matters are resolved so that the Council can move forward. We will continue to keep residents informed regarding progress in relation to this matter.”
Ian Wiper of the Regal Cinema stated: “We are delighted with this recommendation and look forward to working with the Town Council. If all goes as expected, we hope to launch in the summer of 2018 with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. I would like to thank everyone who has visited us so far, our staff at the Unicorn and for the support that we have received from people in the town.”