Classic films could again be shown at a former Blackpool cinema

Richard Taylor, owner of The Regent on Church Street, said while around 30 stalls would bring the ground floor back to life, he has now decided he wants the building to double up as an entertainment venue and cinema in the evenings.

Around 300 seats overlook the downstairs area, where Mr Taylor wants to install an old-style cinema screen and show classic films. A stage would also be installed to allow the venue to put on comedy nights and live music.

Mr Taylor said the proposal, including refurbishment of the ornate plaster work, would cost £150,000, taking his total investment to more than £300,000.

He has just been given the go-ahead by Blackpool Council for the emporium, which will open on Good Friday, April 18, with stalls offering antiques, clothing books, crafts, coins, jewellery and furniture.

The planning permission allows him to use the upper floor as an exhibition space or offices, but Mr Taylor said passers-by who had encouraged him to instead take inspiration from the building’s past.

“I know I can’t compete with modern out of town cinemas but I think there is a gap in the market for retro films, live music and comedy,” he said.

“We could show black and white films which date back to the building’s time as a cinema, so from the 1950s and 1960s and earlier. Passers-by have said ‘I remember coming here 50 years ago’ and that pricks your imagination’.

“There’s no reason why they couldn’t return and see the same films they saw back then and people have said they would love that.”

For now Mr Taylor has installed a six-year-old cinema screen bought from a cinema in Cheshire and plans to use it to sell advertising.

But he hopes to buy an older screen more in keeping with his retro cinema idea.

Mr Taylor, a farmer from Preesall who also runs training company TFS, added the cinema plan might need fresh planning permission and could take 18 months to become a reality.

But he said the emporium was now 90 per cent full and expects all the space to have been taken by the time it opens.

Around 60 per cent of stallholders – including Patrick’s Saleroom house clearance store on Church Street – are branching out from existing businesses, with many of the others setting up as a new venture.

“There are antiques centres in Preston, Chorley and Lancaster but not a lot on the Fylde coast and few have free entry like this,” said Mr Taylor.

“I think it’s great for Blackpool. The town has been crying out for something like this, and it will pump more money into the local economy.”

Since falling derelict there have been a number of break-ins, but none since alarms and CCTV were installed two weeks ago. The emporium will open from 10am-4.30pm Monday-Saturday and between 10am and 4pm on Sundays.