Press Release:Bournemouth Civic Society has revealed plans to regenerate the threatened former Odeon

Press Release: Arts centre plans for threatened Regent Theatre

Bournemouth Civic Society has revealed plans to regenerate the threatened former Odeon in Westover Road as an arts centre for Bournemouth.

Working with leading international design architects Aedas and their specialist Arts Team, the Society has released the first visuals of the theatre revamped and rebranded with its original name, The Regent. Key features of the scheme include a new roof-top bar and a café-restaurant once again making use of the
balcony with its views over the Lower Gardens and beyond.
The building is currently owned by Libra Homes, who have so far had two planning applications to demolish the building for 10- and 14-storey tower blocks refused by Bournemouth Council.

James Weir, the Society’s Heritage and Conservation Officer, said: “We are developing a scheme which not only respects the historic fabric of this locally listed, but nationally significant, building, but also its purpose – a place of culture and entertainment for Bournemouth.”
Julian Middleton, Executive Director of Aedas, said: “The Regent is uniquely placed; a community-driven project that aligns with the wider cultural aspirations of Bournemouth. The venue is an attractive, and substantial, built-resource that can be adapted to create a vibrant participatory and entertainment space”.

As well as the roof-top bar and restaurant, the plans would see the ground- floor auditorium, remembered by many as ‘Gaumont 2’, continue as a live performance space for small to medium-scale theatre, using and updating the existing theatrical facilities, which include stage, fly tower and dressing rooms and all of which have remained substantially untouched since 1929. The upper auditorium, the last surviving purpose-built 1960s Cinerama screen in the UK, would continue to show films with a focus on classic, art-house, independent and world cinema. The size of the building means that options for further facilities are being explored as part of the scheme.

Retail units are proposed in the space of the former shops either side of the front entrance, whilst there is likely to be space at the rear for commercial space. On the top floor the old manager’s flat, complete with sweeping views over the beach and the Purbecks, is proposed as one or two holiday apartments.

The Society is currently aiming to raise £25,000 for a Viability Study for continuing arts/cultural use, which is supported by the Cinema Theatre Association, the Theatres Trust, SAVE Britain’s Heritage and the C20 Society. Mr Weir continues, “This scheme provides a broad range of amenities with
relatively few major structural changes. We have already secured an offer of some funding and are now pursuing further sources. In due course, and with regard to the limited amount of cinema use proposed, we would seek to resolve the restrictive covenant issue with Odeon. A copy of our outline
proposals is available on our website.”

The Society also states that it remains willing to discuss this alternative, heritage-led scheme with the current owners or explore options for transferring ownership. 

Notes for Editors:


  • 1. For more information and images, please contact James Weir, Heritage and Conservation Officer: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) T: 07771 154053 
  • 2. The building opened as ‘The Regent’ on May 13 1929, only two months after the Pavilion. It was part of a major building programme of six super-cinemas (2,000+ seating) by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres between 1927 and 1929 and was the grandest of the six. The arcaded terrace on the front was once part of the luxurious café and patrons could sit on the balcony.
  • 3. Locally-listed buildings are described by the Council in their own documentation as those “which would be missed if they were to be drastically altered, or demolished” (Bournemouth Borough Council, ‘The Local List’, revised December 2000, p. 2 – available online).
  • 4. Although statutory listing was turned down by Historic England in December 2016, a Listing Review Request has since been submitted by the Society to DCMS on the basis that Historic England allegedly did not take into account all material considerations in their decision. An outcome from DCMS is still awaited. 
  • 5. The current owners are Libra Homes, a local developer who also owns the former ABC Cinema on Westover Road. The refused planning applications can be found at:
    spx?recno=91203 (ref: 7-2016-891-AA)
    spx?recno=91438 (ref: 7-2016-891-Z)
  • 6. An application for substantial demolition of the former ABC for new-build flats was submitted by Libra Homes in July and is currently an active application, to which the Civic Society has also objected.
    spx?recno=93137 (ref: 7-2017-1685-L)
  • 7. An arts centre and an art-house cinema were among the ‘noticeable gaps’ in cultural provision identified in Bournemouth Borough Council’s draft Cultural Strategy in 2016, a copy of which can be provided on request.