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From cinema to church? Ipswich Odeon set to become new faith centre

PUBLISHED: 15:07 09 November 2017

The former Odeon cinema building on St Margaret's Street, Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The former Odeon cinema building on St Margaret's Street, Ipswich. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The former Odeon cinema on Major’s Corner could become Ipswich’s newest church if talks between a Christian group and its owner bear fruit.

It could bring new life to a building that has stood empty since the last films were screened there back in 2005.

The building, which was only 14-years-old at the time of closure, has been empty ever since – but contractors have been inside recently ensuring it remained waterproof and that it would be ready if any sale was progressed.

The possible sale of the building is being followed with interest by officials at Ipswich Borough Council, who are keen to see such an important site get a new life. They are also concerned because false rumours about its possible future use have been circulating in the area.

At present the cinema is still owned by the Irish-based company which also owns Empire Cinemas.

It was bought by them in 2014 for £530,000 plus VAT and other costs at an auction in which it trumped a bid from Ipswich Council. Any thoughts that it could reopen as a cinema were ended when Empire decided to become part of the Buttermarket centre redevelopment.

Since it decided not to reopen the building as a cinema, the old Odeon has remained empty – but talks with the church group have happened, on and off, recently.

Nothing has yet been agreed and there is no certainty about the building’s future. But the fact that work has been taking place suggests that something may eventually be happening.

The church sees a need to provide space for up to 500 worshippers at its Sunday services – but also wants to provide meeting rooms for smaller groups and offices for staff who work in the community.

The borough council is very keen on a proposal to convert the former cinema into a church. Officials are believed to have been in contact with both the church and the current owners to offer any support and advice they need.

The council feels the conversion would give a high-profile building on the edge of the town centre a new life – and believes conversion into a church would be a good solution.

One of the main issues facing any proposed change of use would be lack of parking, but the fact that its busiest times would be on Sundays when there are fewer people heading to the town centre should ease those worries.

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