Community rallies to ‘Save Our Cinema’ call

Giles Conlon from The Iveagh Movie Theatre
Giles Conlon from The Iveagh Movie Theatre

The Banbridge town centre community is set to rally round the Iveagh Movie Studios as it faces the very real threat of closure after planning permission was granted for the opening of a new Omniplex cinema at The Outlet.

The Iveagh name has been synonymous with cinema going in Banbridge for generations and it remains very much at the heart of the local community.

Placed in the town centre it draws crowds into Banbridge but more than that, it is a hub of community activity and is the home of the town’s popular Musical Society, which has just staged its latest pantomime - Mother Goose - in the Iveagh’s theatre.

The manager of the Iveagh Movie Studios, Giles Conlon, said the opening of another cinema in Banbridge will mean certain closure for the Iveagh.

“Two cinemas will not survive in a town the size of Banbridge,” said Mr Conlon. “We know the Omniplex can run at a loss until we have to close our doors.

“We are going to lose jobs and business is going to be taken outside the town.

“We will be putting 100% effort into staying open and providing the best service for our customers.

“We have invested in full digital cinema upgrades in line with industry standards but we can only keep upgrading if we have the support of the community.

In a letter to the Planning Service, objecting to the Omniplex application for a new eight screen cinema, together with restaurants, a children’s playzone, and garden centre, Mr Conlon said there was no deficiency in cinema provision in the local area.

“Customers frequently comment on the high level of service and choice at the Iveagh,” said Mr Conlon.

“It should also be noted that there is not a shred of evidence suggesting there is a significant outflow of cinema goers from Banbridge to other towns.

“The Iveagh could not sustain even a modest impact on movie ticket sales. It is not hard to predict the Iveagh’s fate.”

Before the go ahead was given for the new cinema, Mr Conlon had asked the Planner to reject the application “for the sake of a facility valued by many community organisations and for the sake of Banbridge town centre.”

Banbridge Musical Society has also come out in support of the Iveagh Movie Studios and has said they will be forced to stage their annual musical and pantomime outside of Banbridge as there is no other suitable facility in the town.

Writing to the Planning Service on behalf of the Society, Treasurer Liam Burns said: “We are fearful for the future of the Iveagh Theatre and the future of live theatre in the town if the new cinema complex goes ahead. We particularly fear for the future of our society if we do not have a venue to stage our performances in the town. Banbridge Musical Society is very well established within the town and has served the Banbridge District population well for over 70 years.

“The Society is concerned about the impact that the proposed new Omniplex cinema is likely to have on the viability of the Iveagh Cinema and the knock-on impact this will have on live performance facilities in the town.

“Indeed, we would have concerns about the long-term future of the Musical Society itself if we were unable to secure a suitable local venue from which to perform.

“We understand that a number of other community-based groups use the Iveagh Cinema facilities for live performances - it is likely that they will have similar concerns about the Omniplex development.”