The red velveteen seats, popcorn-strewn carpet and ice-cream lady have been replaced by leather chaises longues, gleaming marble and an upmarket deli. Five years and £15m later, my childhood cinema is Southport's hippest hotel. This seaside town may brand itself as "England's classic resort", but the six-storey Vincent is the epitome of contemporary chic. In its prime position on Lord Street, its predominantly glass façade distinguishes it from its Victorian hotel neighbours.
Developed by local restaurateur Paul Adams as a cool yet comfortable alternative, this project reflects the town's renaissance. As I watch a succession of Porsches and Aston Martins being valet parked, and spot Louboutin-heeled ladies in the lounge bar, it's clear that Southport and the Vincent are already becoming favourites with the region's cognoscenti.
In order of size, the 60 rooms are made up of V-Residences, V-Suites, V-Corner Suites and one V-Penthouse. All are decorated in soothing shades of taupe and greige, with huge beds adorned with Egyptian cotton sheets, Japanese-style soaking tubs and fluffy Frette towels, and HD-LCD screens. Curtains have been eschewed in favour of sliding screens imprinted with striking ballet scenes by the fashion photographer Tony McGee. Freebies include an MP3 collection, internet access and calls to UK landlines. The penthouse occupies most of the top floor and includes an outdoor Jacuzzi and indoor spa bath, as well as an even bigger bed.
The food and drink
The V-Café, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, is the place to see and be seen. You can indulge from 7am to 10pm, starting with a Continental or very full English breakfast, through to an al fresco lunch (weather permitting) and a candlelit dinner from the international menu. Round off with an inventive cocktail – such as the signature chilli martini – in the intimate bar. Cream leather seating and black flock wallpaper are set off by McGee's limited-edition black-and-white photos, which are available to buy.
Three rooms are modified for guests with disabilities. Children are welcome; no pets other than guide dogs.
The V-Spa has three ESPA treatment rooms and there's a small but fully equipped gym. There's also a state-of-the-art golf simulator, where you can practise your swing on some of the world's best courses.
Rooms start at £140 per night, excluding breakfast. The penthouse starts at £695.
The Vincent, 98 Lord Street, Southport, Merseyside, PR8 1JR (01704 883800; thevincenthotel.com).