The first meeting of the Cinema Focus Group organised by Tenterden Town Council took place on 1st August 2017. The chair at this inaugural meeting was taken by Councillor Sue Ferguson with minutes taken by the deputy Town Clerk. Two other councillors were also present and will form part of this group. They are Mike Carter and Mr. R Knight.
Sixteen people were present, all of whom are residents of Tenterden. A number of members of the group had direct experience of the film and cinema industry. These included a person involved with local cinema technology, a digital film expert and someone involved in setting up community venues.
It was quickly established that a film society was not the way forward, as past ventures had failed to have the kind of films which would appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes. A professionally run venture with two screens and the possibility of additional retail space and opportunities was seen to be the way forward. The general consensus was that a cinema would help stimulate the local economy, especially during the evening.
Possible sites were discussed including the land at the rear and side of The Woolpack, HSBC, The Pebbles, the old pine shop site, Glebe Hall, at the end of Church Road and the Tenterden Club also in Church Road.
Both Lloyds bank and HSBC were not seen as options as they are currently owned by local land and business owners who would be likely to impose high rents and rates. Lloyds bank site was also deemed to be too small.
Although the Pebbles and the land behind (the Memorial Garden) is owned by the Council, the lease held by White Stuff runs until 2021 It was agreed this could be looked into.
The old pine shop was also discounted as it has recently been purchased by the same owners as HSBC. Glebe Hall was seen as perhaps too far from the main shopping area.
Tenterden Club had expressed an interest in their first floor becoming a cinema on a lease basis with a separate entrance being created. A drawback to this is whether it is large enough for two screens and that the roof would need to be lifted to accommodate this.
This left the land at the rear and side of the Woolpack. The landlord of the Woolpack, Rob Cowan, has joined the Focus Group and stated that, because of recent usage restrictions, the barn at the rear of the pub could be demolished. This land and the land to the side, which is also behind the Town Hall is partly owned by Enterprise Inc. and partly owned by the Council.
A site visit was carried out by the Group at the end of the meeting and it seemed clear that the site was of a good size and, as money is due to be spent on the rear of the Town Hall so that it can be made fit for purpose, it could become a joint venture for both interested parties. Rob Cowan has agreed to approach Enterprise Inc. to gauge their views on this.
Funding was discussed and, apparently, Kino in Rye cost approximately £1.3million in total to establish, with an actual build cost of £800,000. Part of these monies was accrued by a Crowd Funding scheme and it was agreed that one of the group members, who has experience of Crowd Funding, would look into it for the next meeting.
It was also established that Kino had shown interest in coming to Tenterden in 2015 and would possibly still be interested if a readymade building was available. The group agreed, though, that all possible options of cinema companies should be kept open.
In relation to funding, there is also the possibility of subsidy by the Arts Council for screening of live events.
The next meeting has been scheduled for six weeks time.