A volunteer-run 94-year-old Art Deco cinema imperilled by severe damp and decay has been saved from ruin by a £680,000 Lottery grant.
The Grade II-listed Regal Cinema in Tenbury Wells, which has been hailed as one of the best miniature examples of the “super cinemas” of the 1930s and boasts a three-sided Italian mural decoration around three sides of its interior walls, will be restored and repaired after locals won a lengthy battle to win the funding.
Originally built in 1917 under designs by specialist cinema architect Ernest Robert, the Regal has also acted as a focal point for local groups and activities thanks to a community centre built at the back of the building in the 1980s.
Water ingress through the roof and walls left supporters and councillors in the West Midlands town pinning their hopes on the award after lodging their initial application at the end of 2009.
“The Regal Cinema is a real local community hub and widely used by a variety of groups,” said Anne Jenkins, the regional head of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“The grant will ensure that as well as being able to preserve the interior, Tenbury Town Council can now develop further educational activities and interpretation for people of all ages so they can learn about the past of this beautiful building while using it today.”
A two-year programme of activities as part of the development will provide volunteer recruitment and training, oral histories, tours, a resource pack and an annual film project for young people.
“This is a tremendous collective success,” said Project Manager and Grant Administrator Neville Topping.
“The Town Council, local enthusiasts, building users, design consultants, professional advisers and the Heritage Lottery Fund have worked together to ensure the future of the Regal. Everyone involved should be proud of their contribution.”
Councillor Elizabeth Weston, the Mayor of Tenbury Wells, said people in the town were “absolutely delighted” with the decision.
“It is a wonderful gift for Tenbury Wells to know that part of its heritage will be preserved for future generations,” she added.
Planners at the cinema are now expected to press ahead with plans to buy a digital projection system for £80,000. In January 2010, they warned the Council that the cinema could become “a beautifully-restored white elephant” without investment in modern technology.