York cinema sold – new owner plans major refurbishment including a restaurant and bar

New owners: Reel Cinema in the Odeon building on Blossom Street. Photograph © Google Street View
22 Jun 2017 @ 8.36 pm
| Business

One of York’s main cinemas has been sold – and the new owner plans a major renovation.

London-based operator Everyman Cinema has bought the lease for the historic Reel Cinema, on Blossom Street, it was revealed on Thursday (June 22).

Reel York will be Everyman’s 22nd venue. It already operates cinemas in Harrogate and Leeds.

The news was broken via film industry website Screen Daily.

‘Something exceptional’

Everyman reopened an 80-year-old former Odeon cinema in Muswell Hill, London, after a major refurb. Photograph: Everyman Cinemas / Facebook

Everyman will take over the lease from the end of August. It plans to renovate the 80-year-old, Grade II listed art deco former Odeon.

It will be closed from September and reopen in December 2017, with a bar, Speilburger restaurant and five screens with sofa seating.

CEO of Everyman, Crispin Lilly, told Screen Daily:

Our experience in renovating similar buildings in Barnet, Bristol and Muswell Hill over the last couple of years puts us in a strong position to deliver something exceptional in York.

It’s a large and delicate process and will involve working closely with the city’s planning authorities to unlock the potential for this beautiful building.

Everyman Cinemas describes itself as “an independent network of boutique cinemas… spearheading the revival of independent cinema in the UK”.

It has renovated at least four old Odeon cinemas, according to a report in the Guardian.

“We completely change the business model and can make these buildings work. There is nothing more satisfying than bringing an old cinema back to life,” Crispin Lilly told the paper.

‘Terrific for locals’

The Odeon in its heyday. Photograph: Historic England

Reel Cinemas has operated the venue since 2009. “This is a unique opportunity for us to realise some value in our existing estate to be able to invest across other sites,” said Naveen Suri.

“York is an important city for cinema and the investment Everyman will bring to this building will be terrific for local customers whilst we will be able to accelerate refurbishments in the likes of Burnley and Chippenham.”

How the Odeon could look as an Everyman cinema

Reel is located in the old Odeon Cinema, which was opened by the famous chain in 1937.

It was only built after a protracted battle with York City Council.

They did not want a new cinema within the city walls, and only granted permission for the Blossom Street venue once bold architectural plans were toned down.

Originally York Odeon, designed by Harry Weedon, had one giant auditorium which seated 1,650 people. In the 1970s its back stalls were used to create two, small 112-seater screens – Odeon 2 and 3.

When it was threatened with closure in 2003, there was a major campaign to save it backed by a 13,000-name petition and support from showbiz stars.

It closed in 2006 and Reel took it over as a working cinema three years later.

According to British Listed Buildings, these are some of the reasons the York Odeon is Grade II listed:

  • elements of the original layout of the cinema survive, including the upper part of the main auditorium, proscenium arch and main staircase
  • elements of the original layout of the cinema survive, including the upper part of the main auditorium, proscenium arch and main staircase
  • the surviving ancillary rooms, such as ventilation, rectifier and battery rooms, are rare complete survivals.