The popular Tyneside Cinema is to undergo a £1.3m expansion which will usher in a new concept in film viewing for the North East.
Work is likely to begin early next year on transforming an adjacent empty building on Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street - which was most recently occupied by a branch of Barclays plc - into the cinema’s new bar and restaurant, with kitchens in the basement.
Part of the premises, explained cinema chief executive Mark Dobson, would become “a little cabaret cinema space where you can sit at a table, have a drink and watch a movie”.
The idea was inspired by an award-winning London pub and cinema venue called the Roxy where customers can lounge on armchairs behind thick red curtains to watch an eclectic range of films.
One critic recently raved about the Roxy’s “speakeasy feel”, calling it “one of London’s best-kept secrets” and “fast becoming synonymous with some of the coolest genre programming”.
Mr Dobson said: “That, essentially, is what we want to create here.”
He said the new space would be programmed, meaning customers would have to buy a ticket, and show a range of material including, possibly, the new wave of live-streamed theatre and opera productions.
The subsidised Tyneside has proved extremely popular since reopening after its last major refurbishment in 2008 but the bank building, vacated in 2011, offered an opportunity to expand and create new revenue streams at a time when public funding was being squeezed.
Mr Dobson said it also meant the Tyneside, which opened as a newsreel cinema in 1937 and has its entrance on High Friar Lane, would have an entrance on the main thoroughfare of Pilgrim Street for the first time.
The Tyneside Coffee Rooms, established shortly after the cinema opened and run independently, will be unaffected by the planned changes but the third floor Tyneside Bar will close.
In its place will be a new 40-seat viewing area to operate as a free video art gallery during the day and a cinema in the evening.
Mr Dobson said the extra screening facilities would enable popular films to be retained for longer.
He said the new bar and restaurant would be run by the Tyneside itself, meaning the creation of up to 20 jobs.
The former Barclays premises, which was originally a lingerie outlet called The Silk Shop, is owned by wealthy developers the Reuben Brothers whose representatives agreed the Tyneside Cinema could have them on a lease until 2045, matching the Tyneside’s own.
Mr Dobson said the Heritage Lottery Fund had enabled a feasibility study to take place and Arts Council England had awarded the project its maximum capital grant of £499,000.
In addition Newcastle City Council had agreed to lend up to £500,000 to make the project happen.
Mr Dobson said further applications would be made to trusts and foundations, leaving £100,000 to be met through a public fundraising campaign.
“Similar to last time, we have all sorts of ideas about how people can donate,” he said.
If all goes to plan, the construction job will be put out to tender at the end of the year with work starting in January. An opening date has already been pencilled in for late next summer.