What about the Palace?

2:04pm Wednesday 30th April 2014

An open letter to Haverfordwest Chamber of Commerce Re: Your ‘vision’ for Haverfordwest.

AS an organisation that claims to represent the interests of businesses in Haverfordwest, your absolute ignorance and apathy towards the Palace Cinema is shameful.

Haverfordwest Chamber of Commerce has not had the common decency nor made any effort to contact us, as owners of the Palace Cinema.

We are not a faceless corporation but real people: Peter and Irene Davies.

You have this ‘vision’ that you believe will revitalise Haverfordwest, presumably to the benefit of your businesses, but should you succeed in your mission, you will destroy ours.

We are a husband and wife family business that has operated the Palace since 2003.

Perhaps it is easier to disregard us because you do not know us personally: we live alongside and work nightly at our other cinema in Brecon, Mid Wales.

This does not make our investment both business and personal in the Palace any less. Our business investment will become worthless the day any new multiplex cinema opens in Haverfordwest.

Just over a year ago we invested in the latest digital projection equipment including 3D from Sony.

As we’re a commercial operation we do not qualify, and have never received, any grant funding. All investment is made using our own financial resources.

This was £100,000 worth of equipment over a ten year agreement. We’ll still be paying for that when the Palace has long gone if you have your way.

The historical Grade 2* listed Palace Cinema has entertained the people of Haverfordwest for over 100 years, but will potentially become a huge derelict empty building at the top of town with no further commercial use. Not quite ‘revitalisation’ is it?

Our loyal staff: Richard, our manager; Peter; Tracey, Betty, Tracy; Sally and Tamsin, some of whom have been with us for 10 years will all lose their jobs.

A multiplex will generate new jobs, but don’t forget to deduct the ones that will be lost.

Your Facebook site relating to your ‘Vision’ has very emotive ‘architect’s visualisations’ of what ‘could’ happen in Haverfordwest.

You have identified an apparently under-utilised area that you consider would be suitable.

As someone with almost 35 years in the cinema industry I think you have really missed the boat here.

A multiplex cinema is included in the Martello Quays scheme at Pembroke Dock that has been in the planning (but not yet built) for the past 12 years or so.

A multiplex cinema is included in the current multi-million pound Milford Dock scheme, which is well advanced. If either of these come to fruition, you can forget a stand-alone multiplex in Haverfordwest.

One multiplex cinema is enough in Pembrokeshire.

Multiplex cinemas are usually included in major schemes to ‘add value’ to the overall plan and score points when planning decisions are made; they help the developers to get what they really want through the planning process: usually a major supermarket but almost always lots of valuable retail space.

The multiplex cinema in Carmarthen is so much more than just the cinema: it’s Debenhams, Costa Coffee, etc and a multitude of new glamorous shops.

Most of these shops are already in Haverfordwest albeit in the retail parks... Do you really think there will be a huge benefit to the existing shops in Haverfordwest?

A multiplex cinema may be open daily from 2pm, but cinemas do about 80% of their business at weekends and about 80% of that after 6pm when most shops are shut.

On your Facebook site, if someone dares mention the Palace Cinema and it’s future, or lack of it, in your ‘vision’, your nameless contributor is totally dismissive of the Palace, barely acknowledging its existence, serving only to cite your survey results as illustrating that effectively, no one goes there now anyway, as everyone apparently travels the 60 mile round trip to Carmarthen. That’s not quite my experience as the business owner!

I can assure you that thousands of people use the Palace each year and no doubt also eat in a restaurant/ takeaway close to the cinema. If pushed, your contributor hides behind’ it’s only a proposal’.

You have actively promoted your online survey both on your Facebook site, your newspaper adverts and even set up a stall in town.

This survey is heavily weighted towards asking if people would like a new multiplex.

Of course they would say ‘yes’. But this survey is actually about Carmarthen.

No questions about the Palace Cinema, nor any other cinema for that matter.

What about: When did you last visit the cinema?

Where: The Palace Haverfordwest, The Torch Theatre Milford Haven, Theatr Gwaun Fishguard, Vue Carmarthen?

The survey is not an unbiased view as the majority making the effort to complete it will have been ‘sold’ on your ‘vision’.

We are both shocked and disappointed at the arrogance of Haverfordwest Chamber of Commerce in promoting this ‘vision’ with absolute disregard to, without doubt, one of the longest established businesses trading in Haverfordwest.

There is simply insufficient business in Haverfordwest for two cinemas.

Ultimately if your ‘vision for a multiplex in Haverfordwest is successful, then the future of the Palace Cinema is sealed...

DP & I DAVIES

Palace Cinema

Haverfordwest

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