Birmingham in line for Europe's largest cinema

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The Independent Culture
One of the world's biggest cinemas to seat 6,500 people is being planned for a derelict site in the Midlands.

The twin brothers Don and Roy Richardson have gained outline planning permission for a development providing 30 cinema screens near Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham. The project would transform the site of a former power station and produce the world's third-largest cinema complex and the biggest cinema in Europe.

Roy Richardson said yesterday: "It's what Birmingham wants. We're born and bred here and we know this is what is needed. This kind of project is demand-led - it's demand by the public because they want better."

The Richardsons, who are also involved in plans for a cinema development in Cardiff, hope the Birmingham development will be open within 18 months on the site of the former Nechells power station.

Plans for the 25-acre site also include a complex of restaurants, bars and shops.

The decision to provide a new cinema comes amid continuing signs of prosperity in the British cinema industry.

Wilf Stevenson, director of the British Film Institute, welcomed the development. He said: "We have just celebrated the first 100 years of cinema and this is a vote of confidence as we go into the next millennium. It's the dawn of the next 100 years."

The Netherlands and Belgium have led the way in Europe with giant screen complexes. There is a 26-screen cinema in Brussels and one with up to 30 screens in the Netherlands, Mr Stevenson said. "There is ample evidence that if you make them big and brash there's more likely to be audience choice and people go. We're all in favour of there being more cinemas. It should fuel demand."

It is estimated that capacity in the UK at the moment is for 150 million visits a year compared with the 130 million visits which take place at present.

The multiplexes tend to work best when providing the big movies of the day, Mr Stevenson said. "You don't expect gourmet meals in McDonald's, with no disrespect to gourmets or McDonald's. There are different ways of consuming movies and this celebrates the richness and diversity of what is available."

While 10 years ago, film attendance had slumped and the video, television and other entertainments seemed to have taken the place of the movie, there has been a sharp increase in cinema box-office sales in recent years. There was a 35 per cent rise in the first quarter of this year, with 32 million tickets sold.