A GROUP has been formed in a bid to save a town’s old cinema after the sale of the premises.

Historian Aaron Cowen, from Crook, has set up the group along with other interested parties around the area keen to resurrect the old Empire Cinema, in Crook, as an arts venue, with a cinema.

The building is occupied by brothers Geoff and Brian Oswald for their Speedo business, and few know that behind the motor accessories shop is a well-preserved cinema.

The brothers have kept the cinema in good condition, and use it as a warehouse for their thousands of spare parts.

The original seats, ornate décor and signage are just as they were when the cinema closed and the brothers intend for Speedo to move to more suitable premises when the old 'Electric Palace' cinema premises are sold.

Mr Cowen said: “If the cinema returned to us it would be the fourth oldest in the country. The oldest is in Birmingham. It was built in 1910 and local newspaper reports at the time called it one of the most handsome buildings in the Market Place.

“It was promised that the cinematographic apparatus was fire proof and the auditorium could be vacated in three minutes.”

The group believes that if it can raise the money to buy the building it could be turned into a thriving arts venue, which would not only house a cinema, but also be used as a theatre, music venue, a space for art and photography exhibitions, boxing venue, comedy club and snooker venue.

Mr Cowen added: “The possibilities are endless, but the most important thing is that we save this remarkable building and its contents for future generations. We are determined to do that.”

If anyone is interested in joining the group, which meets regularly in Crook RAFA Club, call Mr Cowen on 07840-256420 or email cowenaaron@hotmail.com