New Omniplex cinema in Sunderland to open on Friday with popcorn giveaway

Cinema is making a return to Sunderland city centre with the launch this Friday of the 12-screen Omniplex.

Omniplex Sunderland, part of one of the UK's biggest cinema chains, has taken over the former Empire in Lambton Street and is all set to open its doors to first customers - with an offer of free popcorn and lure of a sci-fi epic which is the first big attraction on the bill. And the cinema, which has created 40 jobs and is set to see further investment in coming months, says the May 10 launch comes just in time to feature the new Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.

The film, being released in the UK on Friday, will be the first biggie on the programme - with blockbuster Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and family film IF to follow - and to celebrate the new cinema, ticket-holders will receive a treat during opening day of free popcorn.

In further good news for local film fans, Omniplex Cinema has set aside an investment fund to pay for modernisation and improvement work over the next 12 months. Upcoming renovations will include installing luxury recline seating and sofa beds in screens and providing new food and drink options in the lobby.

Already cinema-goers will spot new additions such as ticket order-and-collect kiosks installed in the main lobby. They also will be able to validate their car parking ticket there for free parking up to three hours.

Omniplex Cinemas' work follows an expansion by the Ireland group last year, involving huge investment to acquire and refurbish existing Empire Cinema locations across Britain. It signed a lease for the Lambton Street location after Sunderland City Council bought the site last year.

Paul John Anderson, director of the Omniplex Cinema Group, said: “We are thrilled to be able to bring the multiplex cinema back to the city centre and cannot wait to welcome customers through our doors. We understand the cinema is central to the community in Sunderland which is why we are investing in significant improvements, with exciting renovation plans set to bring customers a truly unparalleled viewing experience.”

The cinema company is known for its state-of-the-art projection and digital sound facilities alongside a diverse programme including - besides the latest film releases - sporting events, musicals, concerts and and ballet.

The Sunderland venue's new lease of life will fit in with the plan for a transformed Sunniside which aims to attract quality leisure operators to the area next to the cinema. Peter McIntrye, executive director of city development at the council, said they had been determined to secure the new cinema for the people of Sunderland and are thrilled about its opening.

He said: "We know residents value access to a high-quality cinema, and - with more investment planned to transform the facility - this will be a brilliant addition to the city’s leisure offer.”

For more about what is on offer at Omniplex Sunderland and to buy tickets, available this Friday, see here. The day's free popcorn to celebrate the launch will be subject to availability: find terms and conditions here.