EMPIRE Cinemas has now signed off on a deal to provide Southend with its first state-of-the-art IMAX screen.

Seaway developers Turnstone Estates appear to have won the race to be the first of two planned leisure schemes to sign up a major cinema operator.

The regeneration proposal for the Seaway car park off Lucy Road, in the heart of Southend, includes a state-of-the-art 11-screen Empire Cinemas complex with1,370 seats complete with IMAX screen.

The scheme also includes a Travelodge Hotel with 80 rooms, ten new restaurants and cafes, two indoor leisure units, a new public square and a multi-storey car park.

Another leisure, residential and retail complex is also planned around the new Southend United stadium at Fossetts Park which also plans to attract a major state-of-the-art cinema operator.

Tim Deacon, director of Turnstone Estates, said: “Our vision of creating a first class destination leisure scheme for everyone in Southend is coming together very well.

“We are now very close to submitting a full planning application and announcing further exciting leisure and restaurant brands”

Justin Ribbons, chief executive of Empire Cinemas, said: “We are thrilled to be announcing our continued investment in IMAX technology as part of our new Southend cinema.

“The inclusion of IMAX further reinforces our commitment to providing the most cutting edge, immersive viewing experience for cinema-goers.”

Giovanni Dolci, managing director, Europe & Africa, IMAX Corporation, added: “We congratulate Turnstone Estates on its newest project and are delighted to once again partner with Empire Cinemas to deliver The IMAX Experience, which will transport guests into a film like no other cinema format can. We believe that the IMAX screen at Empire Cinemas will serve as a flagship entertainment attraction.”

Film fan Simon Evans, 24, of London Road, Southend said: “I hope it happens soon. It will be great having something like this. We’ve been really lagging behind other areas.”

The new Seaway Leisure development is expected to directly create around 450 new jobs, and provide a boost to Southend’s town centre economy. The site is allocated for development in Southend’s draft Central Area Action plan.