A CONTROVERSIAL new £6.5million town centre cinema will open on Monday - the first date it can admit audiences.

Blackburn's Reel Cinema's first week will show Best Picture Oscar winner Nomadland, action hit Godzilla Vs Kong, and the suspenseful Spiral: From The Book Of Saw.

It will also feature family favourites Peter Rabbit 2:The Runaway, Maya The Bee: The Golden Orb, and Tom & Jerry.

Joining them later this month will be Disney’s Cruella.

The seven-screen multiplex's opening, delayed several times by coronavirus, coincides with the lifting of Covid restrictions for the cinema industry. Ticket prices will start from £2.50.

Announcing the opening date, the national chain's boss KC Suri said: “It is with great pleasure that we can bring Reel Cinemas to the people of Blackburn.

"We have done everything we can to build a cinema we are genuinely proud of.

"Right now, everyone’s wellbeing is at the heart of what we do, to ensure a safer cinema experience for all. Do come and enjoy the great films we have to offer."

Blackburn with Darwen Council paid for and owns the new building, on the site of the former Waves water fun centre in Nab Lane, as part of an ambitious project to regenerate Blakey Moor and the town’s night-time economy. Reel Cinemas has a 25-year lease on the building.

Michelle Howarth, the Blackburn cinema's manager, said: “We really appreciate the patience of the community and our staff during this challenging time.

"We can’t express enough how delighted we are that we are finally opening."

Councillor Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council's growth boss, said: “This is an exciting moment after such a difficult year for everyone.

"It’s great news that finally the Reel cinema can open after a number of delays caused by the pandemic.

"We know people have waited a long time for this.

"We are absolutely delighted to have helped deliver this fantastic new leisure offer.”

Council Conservative group leader Cllr John Slater said: "The council has gambled millions of pounds of borough residents' money on this project.

"The interest payments on its borrowing are astronomical. Reel Cinemas cannot believe their luck in having been given a purpose-built cinema at no financial risk to themselves.

"We wish it all the best but we want The Vue cinema to succeed as well."

The new cinema has a licensed bar serving hot and cold drinks; counters for snacks including hotdogs, nachos and popcorn, as well as sweets, ice cream and waffles.