LEADING campaigners in the fight to save York's Odeon Cinema have called on residents to "use it or lose it".

Gary Haq, of Wolsley Street, York, today urged those who signed the 13,600-name petition to join his group, dedicated to watching films at the Blossom Street picture house.

He says he is keen to use the support to show the company that the cinema still has an important future in the city, and to stave off the threat of its being sold to the highest bidder.

Mr Haq said the Save The Odeon Cinema Club will run regular informal trips for its members and look to launch an internet forum to debate the films and current Odeon news.

He said: "The campaign to save the Odeon has clearly demonstrated that at least 13,600 people in the city want to keep this unique art deco building as a city centre entertainment venue.

"We've galvanised people and there is now awareness in the city about the cinema."

Mr Haq said he was concerned campaign supporters would only go to the cinema once it was refurbished because of its current shabby state.

"It might not be comfortable, but going now will have benefits in the long-term future.

"The fate of the York Odeon is in our hands. The choice is clear - use it or lose it."

Anyone wishing to join the Odeon Cinema Club should contact the club at savetheodeon@yahoo.co.uk

Cinema expert Derek Atkins, 48, of The Mount, who visits an Odeon cinema eight times a week, said: "It's great that more than 13,000 people signed the petition, but it's important now that they use it. It's all about keeping up the momentum the campaign has built up at least until the company makes an announcement about what it's going to do."

The Odeon's senior marketing director, Ron Hanlon, has pledged to examine the Evening Press petition, which calls on bosses to save the York Odeon.

Updated: 09:40 Saturday, March 27, 2004