London's only two boroughs without a cinema could both have multi-screen complexes within 18 months.

Negotiations are under way between Tower Hamlets and the Robins Cinemas group, which plans to reopen the old Coronet on Mile End Road as a plush five-screen venue by next summer.

In neighbouring Newham, the Stratford Development Partnership has approached several cinema operators with a view to attracting investment for a pounds 1.3m multiplex on the same site as the Theatre Royal. The complex could be open by early 1996.

Since it closed six years ago the Coronet has suffered extensive vandalism. It requires a pounds 1.2m refurbishment, including rewiring and the installation of new seats, carpets, heating and air conditioning. Major roofing repairs are also required, but the building is structurally sound.

Most of the project's funding has been secured, with Tower Hamlets' councillors due to decide this week on a contribution of pounds 165,000.

Robins Cinemas is an independent chain founded four years ago which operates 15 cinemas in Britain including the Prince Charles off Leicester Square. Although it lacks the funding that allows the five

major cinema groups to provide up-to-the-minute technology, the company compensates by tailoring programming to neighbourhood needs, such as weekly cinema clubs for senior citizens and children.

Ben Freedman, managing director, estimated the Tower Hamlets complex would serve an area of 300,000 people.

'We are interested in opening the cinema because the demand is there. A number of people I know live in the area and are desperate for somewhere to see films.

'Inside it's a bit messy, to put it mildly, but there's no irreparable damage.'

The revamped 1,100-seat venue would show mainly commercial films with some arthouse movies and create the equivalent of 35 full-time jobs.

Tower Hamlets said the Labour administration which took control in May is committed to exploring possibilities for a new borough cinema.

In Newham, Stephen Jacobs, managing director of the Stratford Development Partnership, said a modern multi-screen cinema would encourage other entertainment-related firms to the area.

'People are rediscovering going to the pictures, and cinemas tend to attract things like bowling alleys and restaurants. We already have the Theatre Royal; if we had a cinema it would create a night time economy for the area, and make it generally more pleasant.'

Previous schemes to bring cinemas to the East End, which included a multiplex at Canary Wharf, appear to be shelved.

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