Builders have moved in on a historic cinema a year after it closed, prompting hopes its future could be saved.

The silver screens at the Odeon cinema on Darlington’s Northgate showed their last films in June 2022 after entertaining film fans for more than 80 years.

The building was soon boarded up and signage was torn down after the cinema chain moved out, with ‘for sale’ signs popping up last Autumn.

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Last month the Echo revealed the site had sparked interest from a potential developer bringing hope it could be given a new lease of life and falling into disrepair.

Contractors have now moved in at the former movie theatre, while the Echo understands plans to convert the building are being drawn up and are set to be submitted to the council.

No formal planning application has yet been submitted.

In July Darlington MP Peter Gibson called on the owners of the building to maintain it until a sale was finalised.

Last June it was announced Odeon planned to close the cinema after more than eight decades, putting a dozen jobs at risk.

The venue closed just two weeks later on June 30, 2022, putting the future of the iconic building in doubt.

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The cinema was opened in December 1938 as The Regal cinema at a cost of £50,000 and ran as the ABC, the Canon and MGM before being taken over by Odeon.

It replaced the Theatre Royal, which had been first built in 1868 only to be demolished in 1873, rebuilt in 1881 only to burn down in 1883, to be restored once more and last until October 10, 1936.

When the closure was announced last year an Odeon spokesperson said the decision “was not taken lightly and followed a thorough review of all possible options”.