A TAKEOVER deal for Basildon’s empty cinema on a £25million complex is heading towards the final stages with council bosses confident an announcement will be made in the new year. 

Since the council recovered the East Square site on August 25, “multiple chains”, with brands believed to include Odeon and Vue, have expressed an interest in replacing the collapsed Empire name.

It comes as the venue, opposite Brooke House, was expected to open in 2022 but has been hit with a string of delays, including the original operator plunging into administration on July 7.

Craig Rimmer, Conservative councillor responsible for economic stimulus and tourism, told the Echo in October the deal will be “done and dusted by Christmas” but Andrew Baggott, leader of the Conservative-run council, is hoping for an announcement in the new year.

Mr Baggott said: “Councillor Rimmer said a deal will be done before Christmas, but we can never guarantee timescales.

“We have had positive negotiations and are at the point of legal terms being discussed.

“This means the deal is heading towards the final stages.

“We have had operators express an interest, and I’m hoping an announcement will be made in the new year.

“We will not have an eyesore in the centre of town.”

Basildon Council confirmed it “recovered possession of the cinema building” on August 25, in East Square to “safeguard the premises and protect the interests of both the council and taxpayers”.

It came after numerous promises by the administration that it will open by December 2022, followed by the summer in time for blockbuster releases.

Underneath the cinema are multiple restaurants, including Nando’s and the Orleto Lounge.

Lee Chapel South resident Catherine Hayes, 31, said: “It is just a shame because it has been in that unused state for a while now.

“It is sad we cannot do that right now, but I am not holding my breath.”