PLANS to invest millions of pounds in a new town centre cinema could leave a council with egg on its face, a councillor has claimed.

Lib Dem member for Darwen East, Cllr Roy Davies, said Blackburn with Darwen Council has picked the worst possible time to invest in a new cinema.

Cllr Davies has been speaking with Vue bosses who say the town can’t sustain two cinemas.

Council bosses are borrowing £6.5million to build the new Reel Cinema development on the old Waves Water Fun Centre site on Nab Lane.

But Cllr Davies said dwindling attendances suggested cinemas could go the same way as pubs in the coming years.

Currently, more than 300,000 customers per year visit the Vue cinema near Blackburn railway station.

The firm completed a market assessment of Blackburn earlier this month which says the proposed new Reel Cinema would have an 89 per cent overlap in terms of audience.

And the assessment reveals bosses fear cinema audiences would only grow by about six per cent.

The Vue cinema in Blackburn already has low box office revenue, and a summary of the assessment states: “Considering the close proximity of the proposed site to the existing Vue cinema there is likely to be a significant cannibalisation of existing admissions - estimated to be at least 33 per cent, up to 50 per cent, of existing admissions based on the assumption customers visit their closest cinema.”

Cllr Davies said: “The council could very well end up with egg on its face. I think there’s more than half a chance it could become a white elephant.

“The way things are going with TV and film on demand, cinemas in the next few years are going to be like pubs.

“I don’t think there’s a worse time to invest in cinemas.

“I would rather they spent money on people that need services.”

Fears have long been expressed about the plan, but borough regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley said he was confident admissions will grow and the town can sustain both Vue and Reel cinemas.

The authority’s planning and highways committee approved the Reel cinema plan earlier this year. The firm will sign a 20-year lease.

Work on the site is expected to begin over the summer ahead of a scheduled opening in December next year.

The new cinema on the Nab Lane site will include two food and drink outlets.

The development will also include an underground car park including the first electric car charging points in the borough which will bring the total cost to £9m.