100-year-old Leeds cinema set for expansion to compete with 'Netflix, Amazon and Apple'

Plans to extend an historic cinema in North Leeds have been approved by council decision makers.

Wetherby Cinema is set for a refurb and extension.

The 103-year-old Rodney Cinema in Wetherby proposed to build a single storey extension in order to add an extra lounge area, as part of wider plans to increase the number of screens from one to two.

Speaking against the proposals, Wetherby councillor Alan Lamb (Con) suggested that the changes could in fact provide a risk to the future of the cinema.But representatives from applicants Wetherby Film Theatre Ltd said the changes were important for the cinema to keep up with on demand film services such as Netflix and Amazon.

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The proposals include the construction of a side extension with lantern roof to the west side of the cinema to create a lounge and ticket sales area with a bar/café and a small seating area.

Wetherby Cinema is set for a refurb and extension.

The cinema will also have a new entrance on Crossley Street, while the existing entrance will be converted into a staff office, kitchen area and disabled W/C.

The changes are part of refurbishments to the site which include adding an extra screen to allow the cinema to show more films.

Coun Lamb told the meeting: “It has been a tricky application.

“Opinion is divided in the community in Wetherby about this. We want the cinema to succeed and do well.

“I want to congratulate the owners on how they have been willing to engage – they have taken on board many concerns that have been raised. That gives us a great deal of comfort.

“There are a number of concerns that remain. This was bought as a profitable trading business. I am not an expert in running cinemas, but those who are say this could lead to a risk for the future of the cinema.”

He suggested that it could be used as a bar, and asked for a stipulation to be put on the site to not serve alcohol after 10pm.

Rob Chesterfield, architectural case worker for cinema theatre association, said: “While we are encouraged by the revised plans, this cinema is a fine example of an Edwardian cinema, built in 1915.

“Internally the layout is very much original. Our key objection is the significant change to that layout.”

A representative of the cinema said the extension was needed to keep the business competitive.

John Tate from Wetherby Film Theatre Ltd said: “We have taken great care to maintain the history of the cinema.

“Two screens will allow much more flexibility throughout the day.

“If the cinema didn’t do that, you can be sure that Netflix, Apple and the Odeon down the road will take away business.”

A question was asked about the working hours of the bar.

Mr Tate responded: “Word got out that it would be run as a separate bar, but that it not the case – it is ancillary.

“We will reduce the licensing hours to 10pm. It’s ancillary, once people go in to see a film they can get a drink and that’s it.”

Supporting the proposals, Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab) said: “I think this is a very exciting development for Wetherby. I wish I had a cinema like this in my own ward – more power to your elbow and we should be pleased with it.”

Coun Sharon Hamilton (Lab) added: “I like it and I’m glad you’re bringing it into the 21st century where you will be accommodating everyone in the community.

“Once it’s done you will get the footfall.”

The proposals were accepted by the board.