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The Pier and Theatre operator, Openwide International Ltd, has submitted proposals for redevelopment of the Pier Theatre into what it describes as "an all-weather, indoor adventure sports attraction."
In 2006, the Council entered into a 25 year lease for Openwide to run and manage all commercial activity on the pier. These latest proposals require 'change of use' planning permission.
Deputy Leader of the Council Councillor John Beesley, said:
"The Council has made a commitment to encouraging and facilitating all-weather attractions that boost business in the town by appealing to visitors and residents. Openwide is a very experienced leisure operator. They have committed to a summer programme for the Pier Theatre during 2011, including a flagship production of "High School Mania", certainly very'of the moment' and a real test of the market appetite for live, Pier-based entertainment."
The theatre provision on piers in a number of major resorts has become redundant as more popular venues have been developed. On the south coast both Eastbourne and Brighton have seen their end of pier theatres change to other uses as a result of diminishing demand.
Last year, the Bournemouth Pier Theatre (which has been open since 1960) sold just 16,600 seats – compared to nearly 205,000 sold at the nearby Pavilion. It is hoped that staging a summer show with a theme that is highly popular with a family audience, will see ticket sales rise and the market demonstrate that there is a viable future for the Theatre.
Councillor Beesley continued:
"Openwide appear to be making every effort to stage quality 'end-of-the-pier' entertainment, and have done so for the last five seasons. It is only reasonable that Openwide considers alternative leisure options on the site, should this season continue the downward trend in popularity of the venue in its current form. Indeed, I am pleased that Openwide is prepared to invest further in our Pier, in what could prove to be a successful attraction."
"We recognise that the Pier Theatre has been a popular facility in the past and is held in great affection by some residents. Openwide have given a commitment to respect the structural integrity of the original building – that will be a concern for the Planning Board - whilst potentially bringing something new and dynamic to the town."
"We have to recognise that the opportunity to experience hugely varied live entertainment is well-provided for and easily accessible across the conurbation, with venues including the Pavilion Theatre, the 02 Academy in Boscombe, the BIC and the Lighthouse, the Tivoli in Wimborne and the Regent Theatre in Christchurch, along with smaller performing venues such as The Centre Stage Comedy Club and Mr Kyps, whilst wet-weather family attractions, although of good quality locally, are less abundant."