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Whiteladies Picture House: Rival plans unveiled to revamp cinema

Aim to create 580-seat cinema and arts space, as well as preserving heritage of Clifton architectural gem, rivalling plans submitted to council last month

By Christopher Brown
Tuesday March 11, 2014

Ambitious plans to redevelop the derelict Whiteladies Picture House cinema are to be unveiled today, rivalling a similar proposal submitted to Bristol City Council last month.

The Whiteladies Picture House Ltd, a not-for-profit dedicated to conserving and redeveloping the former ABC cinema on Whiteladies Road, raised £10,000 through a crowdfunding website in less than a month last year to pay for a full feasibility study, including a full structural survey and detailed architectural drawings.

WPH managers have been working with Jonathan Lees Architects LLP to develop the plans for the future of the building.

The architectural plans will be unveiled today at an event on Whiteladies Road this morning.

The plans include:

  • A 580-seat theatre and cinema screen;
  • A separate 60-seat cinema under the existing balcony;
  • The reinstatement of the historic foyer and ballroom.

David Fells, founding director of Whiteladies Picture House Ltd, said yesterday: “An immense amount of effort and time have gone into the drawings and they have exceeded all of our expectations. Long-term supporters of the building will notice that we have made some changes from our original aims for various spaces; these changes have allowed us to preserve more of the historic features, while creating an exciting (and financially viable) community focussed venue.

“Like many of our supporters, we are excited about what lies ahead and can’t wait until the building can be opened to the public once more.”

Mr Fells, with colleague Alan Mandel Butler, set up the Whiteladies Picture House Ltd in 2010 – 10 years after the cinema was finally shut down after 90 years of service.

Plans to convert the site into flats and a gym were rejected last year, existing owners Menibrand to create a cinema seating 320 people.

Operator Everyman has been chosen to run the cinema if the plans are approved.

The cinema will have three screens, a central licenced bar, food and hospitality area as well as a private screening room. The plans also include six flats.

Whiteladies Picture House Ltd said it aims to raise funds to buy the building and begin the first phase of works in the next few weeks, to realise the architectural plans developed with Jonathan Lees Architects.

Mr Lees added: “Whiteladies Picture House is a fascinating piece of Bristol’s architectural history, with a rich and turbulent past. We are delighted to work with the Whiteladies Picture House Ltd team, who are dedicated to preserving the historic character of the existing building while providing a sustainable use that will benefit the community.

“We hope that our designs and artwork show that the completed project will be something for both Clifton and Bristol to be proud of.”

The plans will be exhibited at Be In Bristol bar, on Whiteladies Road, on Saturday and Sunday, while more information will be available on a revamped website which goes live at 8pm today.


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