MORE than £300,000 is owed to Basildon Council in rent arrears from Empire after the cinema chain collapsed leaving its town centre site empty.

Back in July 2023, Empire Cinema collapsed into administration and announced the closure of a number of cinemas.

Empire Cinema were due to open a new £25 million cinema complex at East Square in Basildon after being given the keys to the site in 2021 for an expected opening in 2022.

However, at the end of August, Basildon Council recovered the site from Empire after it was no longer able to open under the firm.

The site has remained vacant since, but Craig Rimmer, councillor responsible for economic stimulus and tourism, has insisted it is now a matter of “weeks not months” until a new cinema operator is confirmed.

In a report, published ahead of Prosperity Scrutiny Committee meeting, it has revealed that there are rent arrears of more than £300k.

It stated: “Rent arrears of c£317.4k and service charge arrears of c£49k remain outstanding from Empire.”

The report also confirmed that 24-hour security remains on site to ensure the asset is protected.

Mr Rimmer said: “There is those rent arrears, but you join a list of creditors in this scenario, so we just have to accept it, and what will be in what comes out of it of all.

“Sometimes you have to accept the situation when you are dealing with a viable and future proof businesses. When we were looking at Empire, they were a shining light of the cinema world, but Covid suddenly took them out.

“As for the future, we had a lot of cinema operators knocking on our door, so it was clearly a site people want to take on.

“We should be in a place to announce soon as it is close. My real hope is the announcement is weeks away not months away now.

“It is our building, and we have seen with other sites, when left empty, people have broken into them, and started using the building for other purposes. So as the landlord we need to keep it secure.”

Empire has been contacted for comment by the Echo.