Ealing Council has warned Empire Cinemas that if building work does not begin on the old cinema in Ealing Broadway in the next two months, the company could be forced to sell the site, as the council calls Empire's CEO to a scrutiny committee.
The cinema has been a building site for almost three years after Empire demolished the old cinema, but failed to start construction work on a replacement.
The council is keen for the cinema, which is in an important town centre location, to be developed and has called on Empire to move the project forward urgently. The council’s Cabinet agreed at its meeting in July that if work does not start by October, the council will consider seeking a compulsory purchase order to force Empire to sell the site.
Empire Chief Executive Justin Ribbons was interviewed by a council scrutiny committee last week. He explained that Empire wants to change the design to take account of technology advances since the current plans were approved in 2008, to increase the number of screens, and to add an IMAX. This would raise the height, but according to the Ealing Gazette report, Empire and the council disagree by how much.
Council Leader Julian Bell said: "People are rightly getting very frustrated about the situation. Ealing is famous for its film studios so its pitiful that the town centre cinema just around the corner has been a building site for years.
"We'd still prefer Empire to get on with it and stop messing around, but we feel we should hold this stick over them to make them move.
"It's a blight on the town centre and we're not going to tolerate it."