PENARTH councillors have given their backing for a new venture to be based at the Paget Rooms in a bid “to bring London’s West End to Penarth”.
Councillors were overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals for an 'Event Cinema' and hope it will capture the community’s imagination, but said a proper business plan needed to be drawn up to ensure it was financially viable and sustainable.
Councillors were considering a report about a proposed ‘Event Cinema’ being based at the listed building during a leisure and amenities committee meeting on Wednesday, July 2.
Event Cinema entails West End productions being transmitted via satellite into a different venue with cinema quality equipment.
The report outlined how the town council’s Facilities Working Group was hoping “to bring London’s West End to Penarth” by hosting Event Cinema at the Paget Rooms.
The report stated that there were proposed costs of around £25,000 associated with the project, but with a 50 per cent capacity at the minimum of 10 showings it could yield a profit of £5,000. It added that with maximum capacity and five re-runs per showing it could generate a profit of £95,000 per annum.
The report also said that councillors would have to choose between ‘Non-DCI’ equipment, which would cost around £21,500 and would not support film screening, or the National Theatre recommended DCI equipment which would cost around £55,00.
A survey of the local community had recently been carried out to show whether there was support for event cinema in the town. The committee was told that around 280 people could fit in the Paget Rooms.
Councillor Lis Burnett, who represents the St Augustine’s ward, said that the proposals had “captured everyone’s imagination” and praised the team behind the project, which is being led by the marketing and publicity project press officer Lauren Wilson.
“They are to be commended for thinking creatively for what we can achieve in Penarth,” she said.
She added that her only reservations were whether the business case had been “completely bottomed out” and that it hadn’t considered minimum operating costs and sustainability.
“What we are looking at is maximum capacity and five re-runs with a profit of £95,000 per annum,” she said.
“How many people would you need to get in there in order to not be in debt? Where do people go at the moment? What’s the market for it? Everything that I feel tells me that it’s a really good idea for Penarth and it would have my support, but we are spending the public’s money and we need to make sure we have a stronger business plan for it before we send a cheque for it.”
She added: “We also need to demonstrate to tax payers in Penarth why we think it’s the right thing to do.”
Councillor Mark Wilson, who represents the Stanwell ward, advised the committee that they should choose the more expensive option so it was “future proof”, but that they should also ensure it was financially sustainable.
“If we are trying to market it by providing Hollywood box office films we have got to go for the more expensive equipment,” he said.
He added that with a total budget of £500,000 they would need to do a lot of work to justify it, and that they could also look into leasing purposes as a money-making method.
Councillor Gwyn Roberts, who represents the St Augustine’s ward, said that he would like to congratulate Lauren Wilson on the work that had already been done on the “exciting initiative”.
He added that the aim of the town council was to serve the community and the proposals would be a “superb community facility for them”.
He added that they should go for the more expensive DCU equipment as in ten years the other equipment would be “obsolete”
The committee indicated its support for the introduction of event cinema at the Paget Rooms and agreed to explore the more expensive option of DCI equipment, as long as it was provided with more financial information and market testing and a strength of business case.