October 24 2014 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Friday the 13th – April 13 2001, to be exact – saw the closure of Romford’s Odeon cinema after 65 years.
Faced with competition from the Ster Century multiplex in The Brewery, the Odeon shut its doors the day after the new cinema opened.
But a more recent Friday the 13th proved auspicious for Romford man Carter Hayes.
On July 13 he opened the Premiere Cinema on the Odeon’s former site – and the new venue has just welcomed its 50,000th film fan.
The reason? Tickets are only £4 – making the Premiere, he believes, the UK’s cheapest multiplex.
“Cinema’s always been a passion for me,” said Mr Hayes. “I love projects and this was a big challenge.
“I wanted to do something quirky and different.”
The 33-year-old, of Squirrels Heath Lane, said he had chosen Romford as the site of his latest venture because of the former Odeon’s unique situation.
“Finding a closed-down multiplex is impossible,” he explained. “You see so many boarded up art deco cinemas, but in Romford we had a fairly modern multiplex.
“Doing a survey, a lot of people were sick of cinemas overcharging – and we’re in a recession, so things are even worse.
“We’ve come at a good time as the shopping centre has gone through a bit of a revival.”
The refurbishment cost £250,000 – and Mr Hayes is already planning more work, with a disabled toilet due to be opened by the end of the year, and bigger screens set to be installed in all eight theatres. So how does the Premiere keep prices down?
“We’ve done a deal with the landlord on a percentage basis,” he explained. “They were really keen to bring it back to its former glory. It just worked well for everyone.”
Now, with the Romford prototype doing so well, Mr Hayes is keen to expand into other cities – he’s got his eye on cinemas in Cardiff and Salford.
The entrepreneur said he had been so busy since the eight-screen cinema opened two months ago he hadn’t had time to do any leafleting or marketing – meaning the cinema’s popularity was largely thanks to word of mouth.
As a result, he reckons half of Romford still doesn’t know the Premiere is open.
Now he’s hoping to attract people who have stopped going to see films because of the cost.
“People can even bring their own food,” he said. “We’re not strict like that. You’re more than welcome to bring your own popcorn.”