Update: Hunstanton’s Princess Theatre closes as keys handed back

Crisis meeting for West Norfolk and Hunstanton town councils next week to discuss venue's future

Hunstanton's historic Princess Theatre has closed just a year after being signed over to new management.

The seafront theatre has shut and its future hangs in the balance while shows booked to perform there over the coming weeks are left in the dark.

The theatre had been run by West Norfolk Council which handed-over the reins last September when it decided it could no longer afford to subsidise the venue to the tune of �350,000 a year.

The council leased the premises to C and R Cinemas which also runs the Majestic Cinema in King's Lynn.

Owner Paul Jervis said at the time: 'It is our aim to emulate the live programme of entertainment that the council has been so successful with over the years and to introduce a new programme of cinema.'

The Princess originally opened in 1932 as a cinema and was taken over by West Norfolk Council in 1981 before being leased to the new team from September last year.

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Richard Bird, town and borough councillor, said the current situation was 'scandalous' and questioned the authority's original decision to offload the running of the theatre.

'Hunstanton is the only resort in the borough which is a net provider of income yet they keep taking facilities away.'

At least one production company has been left potentially out of pocket as a result of the sudden closure.

Lincoln-based Chapterhouse Theatre Company was booked in for two performances of Cranford at Christmas on December 4 and one show of a Christmas Carol on December 16 - but the company was yesterday unsure as to what was going on.

'They had started to sell tickets for the shows and we have turned down other venues to be at the Princess on those dates. I have not been able to speak to anyone who knows what's going on and we really don't know,' said a spokesman.

He added that the company had already invested in the show in terms of publicity material and time and it would now be too late to re-book elsewhere if the contract was not honoured.

'We have been to Hunstanton before and were there last year when it went well. Things seemed more difficult this year and we even held-up the print run for our publicity for two weeks because the management couldn't give us the dates,' he added.

West Norfolk council member and former Hunstanton Mayor Liz Watson said there would be a meeting on November 7 between the borough and town councils to discuss the Princess.

She said a number of performances would be going ahead and honoured, including local shows, but the details had yet to be worked out for other shows.

Mrs Watson said C and R had been chosen to take over the Princess because other tenders had all required a level of council subsidy while Mr Jervis did not.

West Norfolk council leader Nick Daubney said it was 'very disappointing' that Mr Jervis had handed-in the keys.

'We haven't had much notice of this ourselves and we will have to consider what to do for the future,' he said yesterday.

'The situation still stands; we have got to deliver the savings,' he said.

There are no rent arrears on the lease, Mr Daubney added.

Mr Jervis was not available for comment yesterday.

A notice has been put on the Princess website saying it would be closed 'until further notice.'

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