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What is Town Centre Regeneration

Town centre regeneration does what it says on the tin: it’s the process of investing in and developing a, usually underused or tired, town centre with the aim of giving it a new lease of life. Installing new retail units and restaurants, opening a new cinema site or implementing a new leisure development in a central location are all ways in which a town centre can be regenerated.

The end goal is to encourage local residents and visitors to want to spend time and money in the area, if, for whatever reason, they haven’t been previously.

There’s a wide audience for town centre regeneration, not just in relation to cinema and the services The Big Picture (TBP) offers. Most people in the local community will have a vested interest in their local town centre, because of its general purpose, commercial use, and heritage. It’s a common space that, if utilised and positioned correctly, can bring a community together, further local economy and create a vibrant atmosphere.

The Big Picture’s services are usually engaged by local authorities, property developers or retail owners looking to discuss the potential for a cinema site, and associated leisure offerings, in a particular town.

Who Has An Interest in Town Centre Regeneration?

The answer to this question is many-faceted but in short, a town centre (or lack of one) can affect the whole community in several different ways. A town centre is at the heart of a community and it therefore follows that if it’s not particularly desirable, local residents or visitors won’t have a reason to inhabit this area. The implications of this lack of attendance are not just financial but social as well.

The death of the high street is an upsetting thing to happen for many people but it illustrates how a struggling town centre can conversely affect the community. We all take advantage of shopping online, whether regularly or as a one-off. Even as we all decry the demise of the high street or town centre, what’s often not realised is that directing shopping habits online can have unexpected side effects. Take, for example, your favourite restaurant, or the Post Office. These types of businesses thrive on what we refer to as “twin visits”, meaning that when you go shopping you may then “twin” this visit with a quick trip to post a parcel or grab a bite to eat. If the town centre is no longer invested in or visited by shoppers, the twin visits will inevitably stop too, likely leading to more closures in the long run.

Having a vibrant town centre is not only financially rewarding for local authorities but a decline in local spending results in a knock on effect for other amenities and services. In a wider sense, losing this focal point results in a less desirable place to live. Residents - usually young people or families - will migrate to other towns or cities to find the character and vibrancy they desire. This leaves behind an ageing population which has its own challenges for local councils.

Why is a Town Centre Important to a Community?

These two terms - regeneration and repurposing - may seem similar but there is an important difference. While the former serves to illustrate the process of recreating the former success of a town centre, the latter seeks to create something new, effectively redesigning a town centre giving people a new reason to go and spend time there.

Local authorities are now taking notice of the benefits of both regeneration and repurposing. There have been particular case studies in the UK of developments on the periphery of certain towns or cities where shopping and leisure developments have then drawn customers away from town centres, resulting in the demise of the local high street. This is therefore what local authorities now seek to avoid happening further.

At The Big Picture we’re able to break this cycle of resistance by offering alternate operational support which, in turn, encourages a more forward-thinking approach. We do this by performing detailed feasibility studies which are then used to give financial credibility to schemes that would otherwise be risky.

If you’re a local authority you may be creating your own vision for your town centre. On your part there has to be an understanding of the existing and future demographic of your local area with the lead on creating an exciting and inhabitable community coming from you. However, TBP is there to advise and guide you through the understanding of the cinema business. We perform the necessary due diligence to ensure your project is founded on credible evidence.

A point worth noting is the importance of participation and engagement with local retailers. This symbiotic relationship is vital to ensuring the smooth implementation of the cinema development with surrounding F&B, retail and leisure offers. This also stretches to the traffic infrastructure and available car parking around the town - something that is essential to consider. Simply put, the framework of town centre regeneration is only the start, with the tentacles being far reaching.

Regeneration and Repurposing

The evolution of e-commerce over the last 20-30 years has had a direct effect on shopping centres and central town spaces. E-commerce has presented “big box retailers”, some examples of which include Tesco or department stores Selfridges or House of Fraser, with a real threat to their existence. This is because the e-commerce retailers now use the same “stack high, sell low” model previously dominated by the physical retailers. Customers now have far more online options to cheaply purchase whatever they need at the click of a button, delivered directly to their doors, rendering the services of the big box retailers somewhat redundant.

This can, however, be seen as an opportunity for local authorities. By reframing this as a chance to repurpose the now available space, e-commerce has given niche retailers or food offerings the chance to come to the fore and for local authorities and town centres to play to their core strengths, remodelling themselves.

The Effects of E-Commerce

If you’re a local authority, a cinema is very often pertinent to the development or reuse of existing space in a town centre. It’s widely accepted that cinema is now a major catalyst for an evening economy in either town or shopping centres. While it’s true that a cinema on its own can’t regenerate a town centre in its entirety, it needs to be part of an overall strategy and is often then a vital part of the process. Depending on the objectives of the local authority in charge, the correct balance has to achieved - some town centres will want 18-hour vibrancy, others will be more suited to nine hour trading times (9-6pm).


A cinema doesn’t have to be a premium offering. Oftentimes, independent cinemas especially can be scruffy-chic in appearance and certainly don’t need to charge top dollar. A significant part of their function and survival, aside from showing films, is to be community-focussed and connected. This is an incredibly effective way of becoming an iconic part of the societal fabric, one that towns then can’t do without.

Why Cinema?

If you’re considering a cinema as part of your town centre development, we provide the in-depth analysis and detailed financial breakdown as to the viability of creating a cinema in an available space.

We are in the unique position to be able to access global and UK data which then allows us to benchmark different cases that we’re working on. And we will do our utmost to help you understand the commercial and social benefits of having a cinema.

We carry out bespoke analyses to assess not just if a cinema would fit well within your town space but which type of cinema will most suitable and successful. The UK is a particularly mature market and thus is quite fragmented. Because of our knowledge of the individual operators and different cinema offerings, we can advise on the best course of action to take, based on our experience and the vast number of case studies that we’ve amassed over the years.

We will also assess whether a current cinema offering is working for an area and, if it isn’t, we will advise on what could be a more suitable development.

One important point to make is that cinema is not to be confused with retail. Cinema is a leisure venture and should be presented as such.

How Does TBP Come In?

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