Church pulls out of buying iconic theatre

Chuch pulls out of buying iconic Southend theatre

Chuch pulls out of buying iconic Southend theatre

First published in Local News


A CHURCH has pulled out buying the crumbling New Empire theatre in Southend - despite a £400,000 price drop.


The theatre was on the market for £1.15m, but owner Richard Shea has just slashed the price to £750,000.


Despite the drop the Southend Vineyard Church, which won planning permission to use the theatre as a place of worship at weekends, says it is still not interested.


The change of heart is down to the cost of renovating the dilapidated building, esimated as in excess of £2million, with church bosses saying it was in a much worse state than previously thought.


Sam Vincett, who runs the church with her husband Andy from its temporary base at Southend High School for Boys each Sunday, said: “We have pulled out because we believed it would be far too much work.


“We had someone look around it and discovered it was far worse than we thought. It has been broken into and flooded and people sleep rough in there.
“We had been given a cost to refurbish it as up to £2million, but that was before the further deterioration.


“We felt it was out of our range and that we could have built somewhere for what it might have cost us.
“We are still looking for new premises.”


The church would have allowed the building to be used by community and theatre groups during the week.
Instead it has become a magnet for rough sleepers and vandals, a sad decline for the iconic theatre.


The theatre was run by Julie Robertson and a band of helpers as a community theatre for ten years until summer 2008 when a row over rent led to Mr Shea cancelling the lease. It has lain empty ever since.


Mrs Robertson said: “It is such a shame that it is going to rack and ruin.
“It has been empty for so long and the community has been without a wonderful facility for all that time.


“While we were there we maintained it and paid £25,000 a quarter rent.
“We even asked for an extension to find our rent one Christmas and Mr Shea refused even to meet us.


“Since then he has lost out on £100,000 and the building is crumbling. If he had let us stay for the four years remaining on our lease, he could have had all that rent and a going concern to put on the market now.”


THE Empire Theatre opened in 1896 and was later run as a cinema – first the Rivoli and later the ABC.


After the twin-screen ABC cinema closed in 1997, businessman Richard Shea bought it and leased the building to the New Empire Theatre company through his company, Shea Properties.


In 2008, a rent row led to Mr Shea cancelling the lease, and the community theatre group moved out.
A year later, Shea Properties put forward proposals to use the theatre as a children’s entertainment centre, but these were shelved and the property put on the market for £1.15million.


In June a cinema operator and a leisure group were said to be keen on taking over the building but a deal wasn’t completed.
The Southend Vineyard Church first expressed an interest in taking over the theatre 18 months ago.


An application to use it as a place of worship was rubber-stamped by councillors in June. Now the group have pulled out.

Comments (12)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

12:06pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Dissappointed says...

What is a Chuch?
What is a Chuch? Dissappointed
  • Score: 0

12:47pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Carnabackable says...

Dissappointed wrote:
What is a Chuch?
Do you mean Church ?
[quote][p][bold]Dissappointed[/bold] wrote: What is a Chuch?[/p][/quote]Do you mean Church ? Carnabackable
  • Score: 0

1:03pm Wed 9 Jan 13

emcee says...

Richard Shea seems to have made a bit of a bad business decision (cutting his nose off to spite his face) by evicting the last tenants and is now stuck with a decaying asset that will only become a bigger thorn in his side the longer it remains unsold. At some point it is going to become unsellable and he will have to give it away for peanuts. Either that or some deveoloper will demolish it and leave the land empty for many years before some eyesore is built there.
I hope it never comes to that because it is a wonderful little building and should be used for what it was built for...entertainment.
Richard Shea seems to have made a bit of a bad business decision (cutting his nose off to spite his face) by evicting the last tenants and is now stuck with a decaying asset that will only become a bigger thorn in his side the longer it remains unsold. At some point it is going to become unsellable and he will have to give it away for peanuts. Either that or some deveoloper will demolish it and leave the land empty for many years before some eyesore is built there. I hope it never comes to that because it is a wonderful little building and should be used for what it was built for...entertainment. emcee
  • Score: 1

1:39pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Sir Peter Pantsless the 3rd says...

Wouldnt wanna dissapoint anyone by not commenting on how i reckon SBC are hoping it pans out, well here goes..
.
My guess is that SBC are hoping if remains derelict to the point at which it has to be demolished.
Then this will enable SBC to employ thier friendly consultants to produce (expensive) pipe dream plans, cgi, glossy brochures, etc on how it could be developed into public space with art instalations, picnic patios. water feature, etc.
Once the funds have been exhausted with nothing to show for it, the site will then be granted planning permission for 50 luxury apartments, 15 parking spaces and a bike rack for 600 cycles.
Wouldnt wanna dissapoint anyone by not commenting on how i reckon SBC are hoping it pans out, well here goes.. . My guess is that SBC are hoping if remains derelict to the point at which it has to be demolished. Then this will enable SBC to employ thier friendly consultants to produce (expensive) pipe dream plans, cgi, glossy brochures, etc on how it could be developed into public space with art instalations, picnic patios. water feature, etc. Once the funds have been exhausted with nothing to show for it, the site will then be granted planning permission for 50 luxury apartments, 15 parking spaces and a bike rack for 600 cycles. Sir Peter Pantsless the 3rd
  • Score: 0

1:47pm Wed 9 Jan 13

DogsMessInLeigh says...

But where will all the people and pigeons go that are sleeping in it..?
But where will all the people and pigeons go that are sleeping in it..? DogsMessInLeigh
  • Score: 0

2:56pm Wed 9 Jan 13

Brunning999 says...

£1.81p is my highest bid.

What a dump!
£1.81p is my highest bid. What a dump! Brunning999
  • Score: 0

4:02pm Wed 9 Jan 13

The Cowboy says...

I see this building as I drive into town occasionally, and ponder wistfully about how brilliant it would be to have an independent cinema in Southend. All those amazing films that go unseen whilst the Odeon continues to show the latest blockbuster. Surely there is a demand for a decent cinema in South Essex?
I see this building as I drive into town occasionally, and ponder wistfully about how brilliant it would be to have an independent cinema in Southend. All those amazing films that go unseen whilst the Odeon continues to show the latest blockbuster. Surely there is a demand for a decent cinema in South Essex? The Cowboy
  • Score: 0

12:55am Thu 10 Jan 13

soul man says...

someone hurry and buy it before it becomes a poundland or mosque
someone hurry and buy it before it becomes a poundland or mosque soul man
  • Score: 0

11:43am Thu 10 Jan 13

Antonius says...

What is the Vineyard church ?
What is the Vineyard church ? Antonius
  • Score: 0

1:05am Fri 11 Jan 13

mr_happy says...

Having been a key member of the empire team, I go along with what Julie said. Richard Shea out priced the building to a point where it was not worth buying. He would not listen to reason and was no business man. If he was a good business man, why are his other companies going into liquidation. Whilst we were there, the empire was a little goldmine for him. We were paying £25,000 a quarter plus insurance. We were keeping the building in good repair and safe. He bought the building for £500,000 and over eight years, received £860,000 rent from us. That figure would have hit the £1.2 million by now and he would still have his building to sell if he wished. His bad decision and stubborn attitude has lost him a fortune and proved how out of touch and unstable he really is. He still asks £750,000 for the building????? My partner and I have spent the last year looking for a suitable building to start another Community Theatre. We found many old cinemas that were just as big and in much better condition. They ranged from £195,000 to £480,000. We eventually found a suitable building for just £150,000. The empire is only worth around £375,000. Having said that, it is still a shame that we could not stay there.
Having been a key member of the empire team, I go along with what Julie said. Richard Shea out priced the building to a point where it was not worth buying. He would not listen to reason and was no business man. If he was a good business man, why are his other companies going into liquidation. Whilst we were there, the empire was a little goldmine for him. We were paying £25,000 a quarter plus insurance. We were keeping the building in good repair and safe. He bought the building for £500,000 and over eight years, received £860,000 rent from us. That figure would have hit the £1.2 million by now and he would still have his building to sell if he wished. His bad decision and stubborn attitude has lost him a fortune and proved how out of touch and unstable he really is. He still asks £750,000 for the building????? My partner and I have spent the last year looking for a suitable building to start another Community Theatre. We found many old cinemas that were just as big and in much better condition. They ranged from £195,000 to £480,000. We eventually found a suitable building for just £150,000. The empire is only worth around £375,000. Having said that, it is still a shame that we could not stay there. mr_happy
  • Score: 1

3:19pm Fri 25 Jan 13

Metropol73 says...

On a similar vein, would you all be in favour of a revamp of the old ABC cinema, as a 2 screen independent cinema plus have capabilities to also use as a theatre and venue for shows/gigs. with the idea of renovating it back to its former glory. It will house film festivals, show old classics and new films, with an atmosphere which has been lost in the world of the multiplex. Would like any feedback.”
On a similar vein, would you all be in favour of a revamp of the old ABC cinema, as a 2 screen independent cinema plus have capabilities to also use as a theatre and venue for shows/gigs. with the idea of renovating it back to its former glory. It will house film festivals, show old classics and new films, with an atmosphere which has been lost in the world of the multiplex. Would like any feedback.” Metropol73
  • Score: 0

3:53pm Fri 25 Jan 13

The Cowboy says...

Metropol73 wrote:
On a similar vein, would you all be in favour of a revamp of the old ABC cinema, as a 2 screen independent cinema plus have capabilities to also use as a theatre and venue for shows/gigs. with the idea of renovating it back to its former glory. It will house film festivals, show old classics and new films, with an atmosphere which has been lost in the world of the multiplex. Would like any feedback.”
YES, of course! I really believe there is a huge demand to watch independent films, even some of the Oscar-nominated films won't see light of day at the Odeon or Empire. Make it happen!
[quote][p][bold]Metropol73[/bold] wrote: On a similar vein, would you all be in favour of a revamp of the old ABC cinema, as a 2 screen independent cinema plus have capabilities to also use as a theatre and venue for shows/gigs. with the idea of renovating it back to its former glory. It will house film festivals, show old classics and new films, with an atmosphere which has been lost in the world of the multiplex. Would like any feedback.”[/p][/quote]YES, of course! I really believe there is a huge demand to watch independent films, even some of the Oscar-nominated films won't see light of day at the Odeon or Empire. Make it happen! The Cowboy
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree