Curtain comes down on landmark cinema

editorial image

New plans to demolish a dilapidated Chorley landmark have been revealed.

The former Plaza Cinema in Bolton Road has been ear-marked for new development, although the nature of the proposals are being kept under wraps.

The 1930s building, which stands on the roundabout at the junction with Bolton Street, was once home to a four screen cinema.

However, after its closure in 1986, the building went on to house a car showroom and later a gym, before its doors finally closed for good in 2005.

The art-deco designed property was then put on the market for a reported £1m, but after years of standing empty it’s now set to be pulled down.

Chorley Council has now sent letters to all of the surrounding business tenants and residents, but a firm date for when the work will take place has yet to be agreed.

Gary Robinson at neighbouring Purple Pig IT said: “We received a letter from Chorley Council saying that the cinema is going to be demolished.

“It’s officially called the Astley Centre now and it has been empty for at least the three-and-a-half years that I have had this shop.

“The notice of demolition said that the surrounding buildings would be protected from the work, but it didn’t say when it would take place.

“People might think that it’s sad, but it has become a target for vandals and has been spray painted and damaged.

“People also use the old doorways for all sorts of things and it’s pretty disgusting really.”

The building is believed to have been part of the Star Cinema chain in the 1960s, and it was expanded from an initial three screen cinema to boast four theatres.

Chris Lawson, who owned and ran Bodyrock Gym there, said: “It’s such a shame as the building seemed to have a lot of potential, but cracks started to appear when we were there and a structural report showed that the roof had moved.

“After that we couldn’t get insurance and had to close which broke my heart as we had really loyal customers and great staff and instructors.

“It was a really busy building and there were shop units at the front that included a hair salon, florist and tattooist.

“At one time a gentleman had approached the owners to buy it and use it as a community centre, but I think they came up against the same problems we had faced.

“It will be sad to see it pulled down, but it’s in such a bad shape and it’s been awful to see it deteriorate over the years.”

Chris, who still teaches Zumba, pilates and yoga, said that she believed the iconic building may even be haunted.

She added: “I used to work through the night when we were really busy and I needed to catch up on work and I often saw what appeared to be a female cinema usher.

“There was nobody else in the building at the time and our cleaner used to think it was haunted too.

“There is a lot of history associated with the property and I’m sure a lot of people will have fond memories.”

When the Guardian contacted the owner of the building he said he was unable to comment, but confirmed that plans were in place to demolish the building to make way for a new development.

A spokesman for Chorley Council said:

As well as a cinema, the building played host to a series of high profile concerts and was a popular destination for people of all ages.

Lesley-Ann Fenton, Chorley Council’s Director of Partnerships, Planning and Policy, said: “We have received an application for the proposed demolition of the Astley Centre on Bolton Street.

“The applicant is putting up site notices in the surrounding area and people have until May 27 to submit their comments in writing to the Council.”

Do you have fond memories of the Plaza? We’d like to hear from you. Contact Natalie Banks on: 01257 264911 or email: natalie.banks@lep.co.uk