13 March 2024

Sunderland is set for more screen action after it was confirmed that Omniplex plans to open in Sunniside. 

Sunderland City Council - which owns the former Empire Cinema building in Sunniside - released a statement earlier this year, saying that it was in advanced discussions with an operator after actively seeking new cinema provision following the collapse of the Empire chain. 

It has now confirmed that Ireland’s largest cinema operator, Omniplex, will sign a lease on the venue and open in a revamped space that will feature an exciting food and drink offer and a more experiential feel. 

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have so quickly secured a new cinema operator to ensure residents and visitors to the city can enjoy a great day out in Sunderland. 

“We have worked really hard to attract a new cinema operator as quickly as possible because we know that this is an important amenity that people value.

“When it opens, I would urge residents to vote with their feet and use the cinema as well as the other leisure facilities on their doorstep. We really do need to back our businesses to ensure their success.”

The operator is working on plans to open its doors this May with a rolling refurbishment programme being carried out behind the scenes over a 12 month period until fully completed mid-2025.  These works - once fully complete - will include fully electric recliner seats in all screens, including everything from a food truck and beer and cocktail van all in a festival styled atmosphere.

Paul John Anderson, director of the Omniplex Cinema Group, said: "We are delighted to announce we will be opening a cinema in Sunderland and bringing our brand of cinematic experience to the North East of England.

“We understand the cinema's importance to the local community, so we're investing in its renovation. With the refurbishment taking place over the next eighteen months, customers can look forward to new luxury seating and sofa beds across all 12 screens as well as an enhanced food and beverage offering."

The venue will act as a key anchor for Sunniside, which has been earmarked as a key priority of Sunderland City Council, as it looks to augment the work undertaken to develop neighbouring Riverside Sunderland and reinvigorate the city centre.

New ambitious and exciting proposals are described within a Sunniside Place Strategy that has been developed through extensive engagement with the local community, businesses, and key stakeholders. The strategy creates a framework for investment and development which will help to unlock Sunniside’s vast potential, delivering high-quality new homes that will create a sustainable residential population, supporting the growth of its burgeoning creative and business community, strengthening its leisure and recreation offer, introducing an exciting programme of events and activities that will bring more people to the area, creating a more vibrant and attractive place. 

Councillor Miller added: “Sunniside is an exciting part of the city centre, with some stunning natural assets, architectural beauty, and phenomenal potential. Agreeing a strategy for the area is the first step in harnessing its strengths, unlocking its enormous potential.

“We have seen the rate of change that has been achieved at Riverside Sunderland, and our ambition is to deliver similar transformation in Sunniside, in a way that is sustainable and that builds on the unique character of the place and supports the communities that call it home.”

For information on food & beverage opportunities within the development, contact the council’s joint agents, Lofthouse & Partners or @Retail. For leisure opportunities contact Stärka.