Burnley REEL Cinema: Pioneer Place site puts cinema firmly at the ‘heart of the community’
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Founder and owner KC Suri, along with son Sunil, welcomed a host of civic dignitaries to a special grand opening of the Pioneer Place site.
Reading out a message from his dad, who had lost his voice, Sunil said: "It is essential to emphasise that our journey was a collective effort. The dedication of the REEL team, and many here tonight, has been paramount. You have been my unwavering pillars of support in business and in my personal trials."
Sunil went on to say: "Firstly, we are about community. We see ourselves as more than a cinema. We talk about being the 'REEL' heart of the community, and here we are creating a space where the people of Burnley can gather, whether it's to spend quality time with one another or simply to watch a film. Our doors and our ears are open to your ideas for this space; reinforcing our commitment to seeing this cinema as a shared community asset.
"Second, we are about value. We champion affordability without compromising on quality. Put simply, we passionately believe that quality experiences shouldn't break that bank, and that culture should be accessible to all."
The cinema chain, which took over the old Apollo Cinema in Manchester Road 10 years ago, was the first name to sign up to the £23m. Pioneer Place leisure development.
Nando's, which opens next Wednesday, Icaro Lounge, Heavenly Desserts and Starbucks have all since followed, with just one unit now left to be filled.
REEL Burnley general manager Andy White, who has been with the company for 12 years, said while the cinema only underwent a huge re-fit six years ago, the new site will take Burnley’s cinema experience to a whole new level.
"We’ve had a huge upgrade on the projectors. We’ve upgraded the seats again, so they’re even better than the ones we had in Manchester Road. And we’ve changed what was the VIP lounge to the REEL lounge, which now boasts sofas instead of recliners.
"REEL has always been at the heart of the community. Now, though, with us being right at the heart of the town centre, and with the likes of Nando’s, Heavenly Desserts and Icaro Lounge next to us, people can come out, eat, watch a film, and have a real fun night out all in one place. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Burnley Council leader Afrasiab Anwar, who cut the ribbon to officially open the cinema, said he could not believe he was stood on the site of what many in town will remember as Leo’s car park.
"This has been 20 years in the making. When I became leader, the first meeting I had with Mick [Cartledge], who was the chief executive at the time, was about making a decision on whether we would go ahead with Pioneer Place. It’s important that people know, that in terms of making this project happen, lots of different things had to align. And at the heart of all that was REEL Cinema and KC. Without that, Pioneer Place would not have happened.
“I’d like to thank all the partners that have been involved in this, because it hasn’t just been Burnley Council. We’ve had support from Lancashire County Council, from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Antony Higginbotham, and also Boohoo, who came in at the last minute to help get the project over the line.
“When I was growing up, we used to look over at Blackburn and at Preston with envy – not anymore. We’re a Premier League town, and we deserve Premier League facilities just like this.”
Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham added: “In Burnley we generally have a healthy scepticism about most things. And so when people heard that Pioneer Place was finally, after a long time, going to get constructed, people had a healthy scepticism. We’re stood here now to prove that while it’s fine to have a healthy scepticism, you can also be optimistic; that when we say we’re going to do something – as a team of partners – we’re actually going to do it.
“And if you look at Burnley now, compared to six, seven years ago, the town has been totally transformed. Whether it’s the Town 2 Turf project, Pioneer Place here, UCLan coming here and growing student numbers; Burnley is the up-and-coming area, not just in East Lancashire, but across the whole county.”