THE owners of York's Odeon say they tried for two years to refurbish the "shabby" cinema to the same standard as the revamped Harrogate Odeon.

But a spokesman said all applications had been blocked by City of York Council's planning committee.

However, the company refused to be drawn when asked whether, if planners backed down in future and gave permission for the refurbishment - including the controversial removal of an historic sign - the refurbishment would go ahead and the cinema would stay open.

The Odeon was responding to five key questions from the Evening Press as our petition, calling for the cinema to stay open after a sensitive refurbishment, continues to gather massive support from readers.

Planning councillors were told last autumn that the cinema might shut if permission was refused for the removal of the old sign on the building's exterior.

The authority turned down the application, and the company later revealed it was assessing the cinema's economic viability.

City of York Council was unavailable for comment.

These are the questions we fired at Odeon, and the company's answers.

Q: If City of York Council were to grant permission for the old cinema sign to be removed from the side of the building, would Odeon guarantee that it would go ahead with a full refurbishment and keep the cinema open?

A: It is not Odeon policy to comment on hypothetical scenarios.

Q: Can you give us details of the refurbishment which Odeon planned for the building, including artists' impressions?

A: Unfortunately, artists' impressions are not available, but Odeon would draw similarities between the newly-refurbished Odeon Harrogate cinema and Odeon York. Odeon Harrogate has recently been refurbished and it was hoped that Odeon York would be improved to the same standard.

Q: Why has the company let the building become so "shabby"?

Does it accept or deny suggestions by some that the cinema has deliberately been allowed to go into decline, so that audience figures would drop to justify its closure?

A: Odeon has been applying for permission to refurbish the cinema for the last two years. All applications have been declined by the local planning committee so Odeon has been unable to make improvements to the site.

Q: Has the cinema been losing money in recent times? If so, how much? If you are not able to disclose such statistics, can you give us the audience figures, year-on-year?

A: Odeon is unable to comment on specific financial figures, but business has become more competitive since the opening of the Warner Village cinema in York.

Q: Have talks with potential property developers already taken place over the future of the site?

A: Any developments or decisions on the future of the site will first be discussed with staff at Odeon York and then communicated to other stakeholders.

Updated: 10:55 Wednesday, February 04, 2004