Will cinema plan at former Lewes Magistrates’ Court end up as a white elephant

Letters in last week’s paper illustrate the completely differing views with respect to the proposed hotel in place of the Magistrates’ Court and the three screen cinema on the Harvey’s depot site.

Going back a few years and looking to the future there are a few comments and questions to consider.

Could the court be reinstated to deal with the number of minor offences in the Lewes District area? Reports and listings in the Argus show that the Brighton court is well supplied with malcontents from our area and eastwards as far as Eastbourne.

While agreeing that the court building seems hardly appropriate as a possible hotel, it served its purpose well and if architecture should reflect a purpose the “eighties monstrosity”(Clive Hobden) was entirely apt, it certainly looked like a place not to be.

Will these projects involve any cash hand outs from the local councils, ie us the tax payers?

There will be parking problems if the hotel is built. John Stockdale points out that “it will be adjacent to a large public car park”. He omitted ‘busy’. Well if the hotel have car parking for their clients, it will definitely have problems for the Lewes area’s public including yours truly.

Retailers will feel the pinch. Already, Waitrose have installed a trolley bay in the park for their customers who are crowded out by the two hour casuals and I’m sure the Cliffe shops will suffer.

I wonder about the business plan for “300 seat cinema/restaurant/community space”. What are the expected capital and operating costs, revenues from cinema, restaurant and community space and how will it all work?

How many shows per day and 5, 6, or 7 days a week and what are the proposed seat charges? Do the three screen units each have 100 seats? What happens if most of the customers want to see the most popular film? Will there be a reservation system for the most popular film and, if so, will that effect the revenue from the other screens?

Admittedly, Lewes has no cinema but there is hardly a shortage of restaurants and at night all are easily accessible for car users and pedestrians so is there a need for another one? Television was largely responsible for the demise of the much loved old cinemas with their sense of occasion. Will the fact that you can now sit in your favourite arm chair at home to see the films you want, have a similar effect on multi screen cinemas?

Now if the developers of the cinema project are satisfied that they won’t finish up with a white elephant, good luck to them, I will watch from a discreet distance.

Brian Beck

Lewes