Exclusive: Omniplex Cinemas boss explains plans for Empire Cinemas (and more)

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Omniplex Cinemas has bought five cinemas in England and Scotland – and its director has been telling us more.

Back in the summer, the Empire Cinemas chain went into receivership, leading to the instant closure of several of its sites. Five remained open, but with a big question mark hanging over their metaphorical heads.

Thankfully, for that final five, there was good news: Omniplex Cinemas completed its acquisition of the sites a week or two back, and has wasted little time getting to work. It has rebranded the cinemas in Clydebank, High Wycombe, Birmingham Great Park (my local!), Ipswich and Sutton, which are now already operating as Omniplex Cinemas sites.

I talked to Paul John Anderson, who was in Birmingham at the time, and asked him about the planned £22.5m that Omniplex’s press statement revealed.

“There are five very good sites,” Anderson enthused, and the £22.5m is for “acquisition and renovation.” It’s earmarked just to cover those first five multiplexes.

The Sutton and Ipswich cinemas had benefited from overhauls as recently as 2017 and 2018, and so there’s not a dramatic amount of work to do there. “It will be more of a facelift,” Anderson explained, introducing the likes of recliner seats, and reworking their foyers.

“The majority of the work and the majority of the investment is going to go into Great Park in Birmingham, and also High Wycombe and Clydebank. We’ve got plans to pretty much gut the place and redo.”

That won’t involve closing the cinemas down. “We’ll renovate each of the screens one or two screens at a time. And the process… by the end of next year, we hope to have all five sites kind of fully up to scratch, to our standards. It’ll be a rolling renovation programme with our teams over 12 months. It’s not going to happen overnight. Birmingham, in six months, you should see a very different location, and we’ll roll out to other sites thereafter.

The announcement from Omniplex also teased further announcements in early 2024.

As a Midlander, I’m part of a very active Facebook group that’s wondering about the fate of the empty Empire site in Sutton Coldfield for instance, where people have been reporting the lights going on.

Anderson isn’t drawn on specifics, but doesn’t shoot anything down. Instead he told me that “we plan to announce more in the new year. We’ll be looking at more beyond. This is a very substantial investment for us, and there’s a lot of work for us to get done as well. This is going to fill our pipeline for the next 12 months, plus some of the sites [his plural, not mine] that we’re going to be taking on in the new year.”

“It’s kind of an evolving picture. But we’ll be adding more sites, and over the longer term as well.”

He iterated that he couldn’t reveal specific locations.


Omniplex is currently Ireland’s biggest cinema group, and this is its first venture into England and Scotland. It’s brought with it its Omnipass too, its equivalent to Odeon and Cineworld’s subscription schemes, whereby you can watch unlimited films for a monthly fee.

As an introductory offer, for the first 30 days of each site reopening, that’s available at £9.99 a month, before reverting to the regular charge of £11.99. “It’s a three month subscription, and a monthly subscription thereafter, so it’s really flexible, and really popular on the island of Ireland”.

Interestingly, Anderson credits the Omnipass with allowing the chain to bring a broader range of films and material to people. “Medium to smaller budget films are really popular with our customers. And you know, the blockbuster films are obviously popular, and so it’s all positive. We also get to know the customer as they’re coming in.”

He’s also agnostic about what’s shown on Omniplex screens. “We’re always on the lookout for new content, and the reality is, we’ll show anything that people are willing to buy tickets for.” Within reason, obviously.

“If people want to see, we’ll put it on screen. People vote with their feet, you know? We like to support smaller, independent films as well, but at the same time, you can’t just put them up to empty screens. It is a toss up. There’s some great content that we show in Ireland, even local content. So we look for stuff. Not everything works, but we definitely try to throw the new out there. If we try it and it does work, great. It if doesn’t, we learn from it.”

The immediate priority, as you’d expect, is the five newly acquired sites.

“We’ve done a month’s worth of work in a week,” he says of his team. “We’ve got the five sites all integrated and switched over into our network and online booking system.” This involves complex things involving IT systems, done at a speed that means – as mentioned – the newly acquired cinemas are already operating under the Omniplex name.

With all that, I leave Anderson to finish his coffee, and specifically request upgraded coffee facilities in his new cinemas. But it sounds like we may be hearing from him again soon, as Omniplex’s cinema expansion plans continue.

Given the large doses of doom and gloom we’ve had in the sector over the past year or so, it’s very welcome news.

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