CONSTRUCTION of the new Empire cinema has been completed, with councillors confident the development is on track to open on schedule.

The 10-screen Empire cinema, in which the larges screen has a 500-person capacity, is the flagship building of Basildon Council’s £25 million East Square development.

The complex, which will also boast six restaurants, aims to boost the town’s night-time economy and jobs market and is set to fully open in early 2022.

Construction on the cinema building itself has recently been completed and now Empire are in the process of fitting the building’s interior.

While the council is unwilling to provide a specific opening date at this moment in time, councillors say it is on schedule to open in early 2022.

Cllr Andrew Baggot, leader of the council, said: “The progress so far has been superb. It’s a really good project and it has been well received by the public. It was also very welcome, that the construction company we used was locally based.

“Already we are seeing a renewed interest in retail offerings. There are five restaurants still unfilled right now but that is down to commercial negotiations rather than a lack of interest. “

He added: “There is an energy in the high street now and around the whole place. The complex is going to be something we can be proud of in the years to come.”

Of the six restaurant spaces, just one has been filled – with national café/bar chain Loungers announced earlier this year.

The council declined to reveal the operators bidding for the remaining spaces, citing ‘commercial sensitivity’.

Cllr Anthony Hedley, deputy leader and regeneration and economic development committee chairman, has been pleased with the project’s process and is confident of a timely opening/

“The main contractor that did the build has handed the premises over to Empire who are fitting out the interior,” he said.

“The build itself went very smoothly, it was ahead of time and on budget. Remarkably, considering the size and complexity of the build, it has been a very smooth process.”

He added he could see 'no reason' why there would be any delays and was confident it will be open in early 2022.