Buttermarket work moves up a gear as Empire strikes back in Ipswich

The Buttermarket shopping centre , Ipswich.

The Buttermarket shopping centre , Ipswich. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

An Empire cinema is set to open in the Ipswich Buttermarket centre late next year – and the move has prompted hopes that the town’s former Odeon building on Major’s Corner may get a new lease of life.

Work to convert the Buttermarket into an entertainment-led centre has already started. The cost has not been revealed, but development experts estimate that the total cost is likely to be more than £10 million.

The first phase of work is to move TK Maxx and New Look into different units within the centre.

TK Maxx is to go into what was the bottom floor of the department store and New Look is moving into a new unit being created with a entrance on to the Butter Market street.

Now the Buttermarket centre – jointly owned by Capital and Regional and the Drum Property Group – has confirmed that Empire is set to take over the 16-screen cinema that is being created on the first and higher floors.

A statement from the company said: “We can confirm that Empire is the preferred operator of the cinema complex at Buttermarket Shopping Centre.

“Negotiations are ongoing, and we are presently completing the technical and engineering design which will allow us to deliver a state of the art cinema offer in Ipswich town centre.

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“We anticipate making a further announcement in the coming weeks.”

The company that owns Empire, which currently has 17 cinemas across the country, bought the Odeon building last year.

That purchase effectively killed off proposals by Vue cinemas to develop a cinema in the Buttermarket centre.

It is understood that Capital and Regional is planning to buy the Odeon building as part of the deal with Empire – and that it could start redevelopment of that site after once the redevelopment of the Buttermarket is completed at the end of next year.

There is no confirmation of these plans at present – but we understand there is the possibility the Odeon could be converted into a conference centre and possibly have ground floor facilities like a restaurant and bar that could be shared with the neighbouring Regent Theatre.

The move has been welcomed by Ipswich Central, the organisation that represents businesses in the heart of the town.

Its chief executive, Paul Clement, said: “Capital and Regional are progressing rapidly with detailed plans for a complete transformation of the Buttermarket.

“I am in touch with them regularly and am wholly supportive of their strategy. Bold plans like this require brave decisions and Ipswich is now fortunate to have the bravest of owners behind this important scheme.

“There are exciting plans yet to be revealed.”

The news was welcomed by Ipswich MP Ben Gummer who said the move should be good for the town.

He said: “Empire is a very successful cinema chain and have a great product that I am sure people in Ipswich will welcome.

“I am also very hopeful that this will lead to something happening at the Odeon site – which has been abandoned for far too long.”

See here for Paul Geater’s take on the upcoming battle on the Ipswich cinema scene

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