A historic Essex cinema that was once used as a filming location for the hit film Who Framed Roger Rabbit is set to be transformed by one of the country’s biggest pub chains.
Planning officers have recommended that plans submitted by JD Wetherspoons to redevelop the State Cinema on George Street in Grays into a modern bar should be given approval.
The scheme will be discussed by Thurrock Council’s planning committee on Thursday and proposes fully repairing and refurbishing the iconic building.
A report published ahead of the meeting reads: “The proposal would enable the restoration and re-use of one of the most distinctive and recognised buildings in Grays.
“The site is in one of the Borough’s main regeneration hubs and the proposals would represent a major opportunity to support and regenerate Grays Town Centre.
“The proposal would bring jobs and footfall to the High Street and create in the region of 60 new jobs. Crucially the proposals involve the re-use of a long-standing vacant heritage asset which has suffered from damage in recent years.”
The cinema first opened in 1938 and was one of the most modern cinemas of its kind at the time. With a capacity of 2,200, it was also one of the largest in Essex.
It eventually closed in 1988 but that same year it was used as a filming location for a three-minute sequence in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which saw the animated character hiding out with co-star Bob Hoskins.
Ten years later it was used as the location for a promotional video for the 1998 movie Godzilla, as well as for the music video for the song Going Deeper Underground by Jamiroquai.
It was classified as Grade II* building by English Heritage in June 2000 to preserve the art-Deco interior.
The building eventually fell into disrepair and has stood unused for several years.
JD Wetherspoon purchased it in September 2015 and promised to invest £3million into a pub conversion. However, the development stalled due to negotiations with Historic England and Thurrock council over preserving some of the key parts of the building.
As part of the preservation the existing circle seating area and projector room will remain unchanged but the public will not be given access to these areas.
The cinema’s famous pipe organ will also be restored and left to sit on the stage in full view of customers.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon: “We are as keen as ever to develop the former cinema into a Wetherspoon pub.
“We believe a new pub will be a great asset to the town.