“THIS one we should save!”
That was the message from civic chiefs as another crumbling part of Blackpool’s entertainment history was put up for sale.
The former Regent Cinema on the corner of Church Street and Regent Road will go to auction with a guide price of between just £60,000 and £70,000.
It comes after Blackpool Council revealed plans to buy and demolish the former Syndicate superclub and ABC cinema – which played host to The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Morecambe and Wise – just yards away to make way for a car park.
The battle to save that building is gathering steam but Blackpool Civic Trust said it could not support the campaign because so little of the original theatre remained.
But speaking about the Regent today, trust chairman Elaine Smith told The Gazette: “I think it should be saved.
“It has a lot more history than the ABC building which people are currently fighting for and a lot more going for it too.
“It could be used for community use like has been suggested for the ABC, or a synagogue. It should definitely not be knocked down.”
The trust’s president Barry Shaw added: “I only hope someone with business acumen will come along with good proposals and the capital to back them up.
“It is not a listed building, I think listed status was applied for about 20 years ago but English Heritage turned it down.
“The only real history there now is the white facade.
“It is a shame the state that it is in. I would like to see it back in use, either as a museum, a cinema or even as a retail outlet.”
Up until two years ago the venue operated as Riley’s American Pool and Snooker Club but after that business moved out it was repossessed by the bank which has ordered its sale.
With its white faiance tiled facade and domed tower it commands a strategic position close to the Central Business District.
Opening on January 17, 1921, as the Regent Picture House, the distinctive building, which has been closed since 2010, was the first building in Blackpool to have a retractable roof.
In 1969 it began running regular bingo nights and was converted full time to bingo in 1971.
Blackpool businessman Stephen Brennan, owner of Buddiez American Diner on Topping Street, is spearheading the fight to save the Syndicate and agreed it would be a tragedy if the iconic Regent building was demolished.
He added: “It has those distinctive white tiles on the outside, like the White Church in Fairhaven. I think it was designed by the same architect.
“It’s a piece of Blackpool’s entertainment history just as the nearby ABC is. It is iconic but, like so many similar old theatres and cinemas in the town, it has suffered because previous owners have been unsympathetic to the building. It would be a real shame if it were knocked down, but it is in a poor condition. The roof has gone and there is a lot of water damage inside.
“It would cost a mind-blowing amount to restore and I think the guide price speaks volumes. You could get a two-bedroomed house for that.”
One of the others behind the campaign to save the former ABC Cinema, Sandra Pounder, added: “Friends of mine have been in and they say it is in a appalling state.
“But it is part of Blackpool’s history and it should never have been allowed to get into that condition.
“There is likely to be a campaign to save it. I know people have been looking at this building for some time to start a campaign.
“For everyone I know who has lived in Blackpool all their lives, the Regent was part of their growing up.
“It should be used as either a museum of entertainment or as an arts and culture venue for the young people where they can perform.”
Carl Carrington, built heritage & conservation manager at Blackpool Council, said as the Regent was not a listed building, the council, in law, could only buy it if there was a sound commercial plan to recoup any money spent on it.
And he added that if someone bought the building it would not be possible for the council to stop them from demolishing it if they were determined to do so.
He said: “It is a significant site and a lovely building. The facade and tower look beautiful.
“It would be a shame if it were to be demolished. We will have a look at the building but in reality we are constrained by the law.”
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture at Blackpool Council, added: “It is a historic Blackpool building in a prime town centre location.
“If the building is for sale we will, of course, follow developments with interest and will be happy to work with the new owners.”
The building is up for auction on February 22 at the Tickled Trout Hotel, Preston New Road, Preston.
Ashley Dribben, of Metcalf’s Estate Agents, who are in charge of the sale, said the building was not in great condition but was highly distinctive and occupied a prime location.
He said: “The snooker tables are still inside and are damp but usable. There are five still there and 12 pool tables. On the first floor, the old cinema seats are still there.
“Sadly undesirables have been inside and stripped out some of the metal. The stage is still there behind a partition because Riley’s mainly just used the downstairs areas.
“There is the possibility of carrying it on as a snooker club and there has been some interest in it as a bar or pub, but of course there is also the potential for development of the site because it is quite big.”