WITH its imposing and luxurious cream frontage and ornate flourishes it’s been part of a Southampton streetscape for more than 100 years.

Yet for the past four years the future of one of Hampshire’s oldest cinema buildings has been unclear.

Now a developer believes the best solution is to convert the stalwart structure in Portsmouth Road, Woolston, into flats.

Under plans being drawn up, most of the building will be swept away and 11 flats built in its place.

But it is not quite curtains for the landmark – because its distinctive facade will be kept.

Architect Tony Oldfield said: “This is the most interesting part. Behind it is a box which is not in good shape.

“Southampton city is keen to retain the facade which is what we will be endeavouring to do to win approval.”

During construction, the front would be propped up while the flats would be slotted behind.

What was known as the Picture House cinema opened in 1912 but closed in 1973 and was soon turned into a bingo hall.

It is thought while being converted much of the Edwardian cinema interior was removed.

The effects of the smoking ban and the rise of Internet gambling was blamed for shutting down the 4,000-member New Century Bingo club in 2009.

Since then it has stood empty amid concerns for its future.

The new plan has won the support of Woolston councillor and cabinet member for housing, Warwick Payne.

He said: “It has lain empty for too long and something clearly needs to be done with it.

“Since then this scheme has come forward which could offer a compromise that everyone will be willing to live with.

“As for the other uses we did investigate a community theatre group who might be interested but given the costs it was not going to happen.

“So using the premises for housing while retaining its most important historical feature means we have a scheme that is hopefully successful but also historically symbolic.”

Brian Sefton, of the heritage watchdog the City of Southampton Society, said: “I think the society would be in favour of the retention of the busts and the general aspect of the front. It is a characterful building.”

A provisional planning permission decision date of Tuesday, July 30, has been set.