Independent cinema to act as social hub for Bristol shopping centre upgrade

February 15, 2019

Bristol-based developer Firmstone Consortia One has revealed plans to open a cinema as part of its ambitious upgrade of an unloved South Bristol shopping mall.

The firm has appointed independent cinema group Scott Cinemas – which owns the Henleaze Orpheus cinema in Bristol – to run the three-screen venue in Bedminster. 

Subject to planning permission, Firmstone will invest £5m in refurbishing the St Catherine’s Place shopping centre, which currently has several vacant units – including injecting £1.5m into the new cinema – as part of its proposed £50m redevelopment of the site. Scott Cinemas is set to invest an additional £1.5m in the cinema.

It said it expected the new cinema to attract similar numbers of customers as its Henleaze Orpheus cinema – about 145,000 a year from the local community.

The cinema will have the latest technology including Dolby Atmos sound and 4k laser projection in all screens, as well as a bar/cafe.

Scott Cinemas operates a tiered pricing structure to ensure it is accessible to all local customers. It also makes the cinema available to community groups, and holds many different events at its cinemas, so they become social hubs at the heart of each community.

A planning application for the redevelopment of St Catherine’s Place, which will create a further 271 homes and a reinvigorated shopping centre include provision for Scott Cinemas, has been submitted. It is expected to go before one of Bristol’s planning committees in April.

So far Firmstone Consortia One has created 54 new apartments in Catherine’s House, which was formerly offices and is part of the wider St Catherine’s Place scheme.

Most of the homes have already been sold at prices starting at £158,000 with 80% already occupied by their new owners.

This conversion was completed under the government’s Permitted Development Rights scheme, where unused commercial buildings can be converted into new homes.

The external appearance of the building, which had long been an issue with the local community, has been upgraded with a new modern residential façade.

Firmstone Consortia One’s wider plans for St Catherine’s Place form the gateway to a major regeneration scheme called Bedminster Green which the city council has identified for building about 2,000 new homes. The city council is one of several landowners involved in Bedminster Green.

Developer Francis Firmstone said: “This is fantastic news for Bedminster. The new cinema will become a social hub for the local community and is set to be a catalyst for the wider regeneration of East Street.

“We have worked hard to find a business that’s the right fit for the community to create the kind of step-change that’s so badly needed for the shopping centre.  Scott Cinemas is a great South West company, much loved by its loyal following in Henleaze.

“Our plans will help reinvigorate the East Street area, which, in its heyday, was the social and economic hub of South Bristol. Securing the cinema will ensure restaurants, cafes and shops will follow suit. Rather than doing a basic upgrade of the shopping centre, we are investing significantly to make sure this becomes the vibrant heart of Bedminster.”

Scott Cinemas director Dan Harris added: “We jumped at the chance to be involved. Bedminster is probably the only area of Bristol where the majority of local residents need to travel into the city centre or much further afield to visit the cinema.

“It’s fantastic to see these plans to regenerate this part of Bedminster – and I have no doubt our cinema will be vital in the area’s renaissance. We are keen to get cracking and share our love of films with people of Bedminster, so hope that these plans will be supported by the local community and wider city.”

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