DEVIZES cinema is set to get a major revamp as a new company takes over the building from longtime owner John Angel.

But there were tears on Friday evening when Mr Angel’s assistant Simon Manners told stalwarts at the bingo hall beneath the Palace Cinema that it is to close in January.

This week Mr Manners confirmed that the sale by Mr Angel, 78, was going ahead. He said: “It was emotional at the bingo on Friday evening. Some of our regulars were in tears and I was upset as well.

“But numbers have dropped off in recent years. We get around 30 on a good night but only about 10 on others. We have a group we call the diehards who are very disappointed.”

“Overall we all think it is very good news for Devizes.”

Bognor-based Picturedrome owned by Adam Cunard will take over in January and work will start to transform the existing cinema with new seating and a new screen. Later he wants to incorporate the bingo hall and add an extra screen. The cinema will close for a few weeks to allow the first phase of the work to be carried out.

He expects to spend around £2 million over the next two years on the project. Mr Cunard, who already owns seven cinemas across the south of England, said: “We very much want to be part of the community. We will keep the cinema’s name and keep its historic features but give it modern comforts.

“I have visited Devizes and feel it is a town where we will fit in well.”

He said prices would be low so that families would be able to afford to see films regularly and that the Devizes Film Club will still be welcome to meet at the cinema.

But the closure of the bingo hall could mean that up to five people will be facing redundancy.

Mr Manners, who has worked at the cinema for 14 years, said he did not know what his own working future would hold.

The Palace Cinema opened in 1912 as the New Electric Theatre and was modernised in 1929.

A fire gutted the building in 1932, but the cinema was rebuilt and opened again just 12 weeks later.

It was acquired by Robins Cinemas in the 1990s. But when put on the market it faced closure until John Angel, the owner of the building and operator of the bingo hall on its ground floor, agreed to continue running it as a cinema.

This week Mr Angel posted a message on Facebook about the bingo club saying: “Thank you for your support over the last 27 years.”