Last night’s meeting was well attended by local residents and interested local groups. We were introduced to the key players from the groups involved in the project and shown initial plans for the regeneration of the building, which would ensure that the building can once again be used for the purpose that it was originally created to for – to be a working cinema once again.
The new group looking at the cinema consists of the National Trust, Devon Historic Buildings Trust, the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Torbay Council. The cinema is currently owned by the Railway, who would be looking to sell it on to Devon Historic Buildings Trust. Eventually, the building would probably pass to the National Trust, who would run it. This would mean that the National Trust would have a living, breathing building in the heart of Paignton as part of their portfolio, which would be terrific for the local area.
To be a sustainable business, the Picture House will need to have multiple uses. The group are currently looking at the best uses for the building and have selected an architect, Levitate, to create designs. We were shown four possible options about what could happen to the building. These were all very provisional designs and more options could easily be created. All options include a cafe / bar area towards the back of the current seating, which would also allow the National Trust space to promote their other English Riviera properties. There would also be space upstairs for a small museum and training facilities, focusing on the heritage and significance of the building.
To ensure that the building could be used for wider activities than just cinema, such as putting on comedy events, dances and conferences, various options included enlarging the stage and introducing a temporary flat floor which could be placed over the rake where the seating normally goes.
The group are currently finalising ideas to discuss with English heritage, who must approve any works as the building is Grade II* listed. They are also putting together a funding bid and an ambitious but realistic fundraising plan to raise enough money to fully restore the building and secure its long term physical future. Different options on how best to create a sustainable business use for the building are currently under discussion.
There are long roads ahead, but all were agreed that a reopened Paignton Picture House would be good for the town, beneficial to the Dartmouth Steam Railway, and provide a much-needed new service to the people of Torbay and the wider area.