IT CLOSED more than 50 years ago after falling victim to the growing popularity of television.

But a Hampshire cinema has been brought back to life at a cost of £1 million and will tonight show its first film since the mid-1960s.

Members of the newly-formed Fordingbridge Regal Cinema Club will attend a screening of Casablanca, the classic 1942 movie starring Humphrey Bogart.

Tomorrow the newly-restored picture palace will stage an open day, enabling all members of the local community to inspect the 30-seat auditorium.

The man behind the project is Brian Currie, owner and chairman of a Fordingbridge-based electronics company called Corintech.

He said: “I had the idea of making it into a small cinema that will be sustainable. I wanted it to benefit the community and everyone has been brilliantly supportive.”

Mr Currie will show classics as well as a modern films and is also hoping to stage Saturday morning screenings for children.

The Regal opened in Shaftesbury Street, Fordingbridge, in 1933 but closed in 1965 and was later converted into a pottery business. Corintech bought the site last year.

Mr Currie added: “I wanted to give something back to the community, who have been really good to Corintech.”

Speaking ahead of the open day Emma Goddard, one of the other people involved in the project, said: “We’d really like anyone interested in being members of the cinema club, or just having a look at what we’ve done, to come along.

“It’s for the local community to see how it has been transformed into a really beautiful cinema.”

Part of the original cinema has been turned into seven flats in a scheme that aims to help Corintech recruit young engineers.

Cllr Malcolm Connolly, the Mayor of Fordingbridge, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that somebody has refurbished the cinema and is opening it as it was all those years ago.

“It’s a terrific amenity for local people and I hope it will be well attended.”

“We’d like to thank Brian and his team at the Regal Cinema for taking on such a bold venture and wish them every success. It is something that should be supported.”

The planning application was approved by New Forest District Council in August last year after attracting 300 comments – but no objections.

Speaking at the time Cllr Ann Sevier said: “Everyone in Fordingbridge is quite excited about this building being brought back into use.”

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