Dorset

Curtain call for Bournemouth's Pier Theatre

Bournemouth Pier
Image caption Opened in 1959, the theatre was home to some of the biggest names in TV of yesteryear

Summer shows are set to be scrapped from Bournemouth's Pier Theatre after plans were submitted to transform the venue into a £3m adventure attraction.

Once popular with tourists, there has been a decline in visitors and more competition from other venues.

Operator Openwide International wants to turn the site into an indoor attraction offering a surfing ride, climbing walls and a high ropes course.

An application has been submitted to the council for change of use.

If given the green light the attraction, set to be called RockReef, will open next Easter.

Up to 15 jobs could be created and proposals also include changing rooms, retail units and food and drink areas.

'Downward trend'

Opened in 1959, the theatre was home to some of the biggest names in TV of yesteryear including Carry On star Sid James and 3-2-1 game show presenter Ted Rogers.

This summer it is staging a production of High School Mania, which it hopes will appeal to children.

Roy Holburn, commercial and operational director, said some users who remembered the "golden years" had expressed disappointment but added it could not compete with the other venues.

"Bournemouth is very well catered for and very well provided for and we can not possibly compete with their economic backing," he said.

Image caption Brighton and Eastbourne piers both changed facilities to other uses

"We will be preserving the structure so if ever the market changed it would be physically possible to revert to a theatre.

"We are also looking at enhancing the overall offer of Bournemouth."

Bournemouth council said the theatre provision on piers across a number of major resorts has become "redundant" as more popular venues developed.

Eastbourne and Brighton have both seen their facilities change to other uses as a result of diminishing demand, the council said.

Last year, Bournemouth Pier Theatre sold just 16,600 seats, compared to nearly 205,000 sold at the nearby Pavilion.

Councillor John Beesley, deputy council leader, said the council had committed to encouraging all-weather attractions.

"Openwide appear to be making every effort to stage quality 'end-of-the-pier' entertainment, and have done so for the last five seasons," he added.

"It is only reasonable that it considers alternative leisure options on the site, should this season continue the downward trend in popularity of the venue in its current form.

"We recognise that the Pier Theatre has been a popular facility in the past and is held in great affection by some residents."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites