73 per cent ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to visit – Gosport Borough Council’s plan to re-open the Criterion as an entertainment and community venue has been backed by residents.
In a survey, almost three quarters of local people (73 per cent) said they were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’  to visit the historic former cinema once it was back in use.

Under 25s were the most keen, but a majority of residents in all age groups said they were likely to attend events and activities.

The Criterion, in Forton Road, opened in 1912 and was run as a cinema and theatre until 1968. It became a bingo hall, and closed in 2020. Last year the council bought it, with a plan to restore the building and re-open it as a multi-use entertainment venue for the community.

To get feedback on the project, the council ran a consultation earlier this year. A total of 1,149 residents responded by filling in a survey. The consultation was promoted on social media, on posters and flyers and in local media. People could complete the survey online or on paper, and 12 face-to-face events were held.

More than half of residents said they were interested in attending live music performances, film screenings and fairs or markets at the Criterion. Theatre and comedy performances were also popular, with just under half of residents interested.

Live music was the most commonly mentioned type of event that local people wanted to attend. Local bands and rock and pop acts had the widest appeal. But residents wanted to see a variety of events, including performances from new talent and local bands, festivals and open-mic nights.

When asked if they were likely to visit the Criterion when it re-opens, 73 per cent of residents were likely to visit the Criterion in the future.

Only 21 per cent said they were unlikely to do so. Six per cent were undecided about visiting.

Organisations that responded to the consultation were enthusiastic about the project and keen to be involved, and the council is planning more consultation with local businesses and groups in October to further establish possible uses for the building.

Cllr Peter Chegwyn, Leader of the Council, said: “This survey shows solid majority support for our plan to restore the Criterion as a fantastic asset to our community. It’s clear there’s a big demand for an entertainment venue where a variety of events can take place. It’s great that so many people took part in the survey and told us their views. These will be very useful as we develop the project.”

Tours of the building, run by Hampshire Cultural Trust last month as part of the Heritage Open Days scheme, attracted 100 people and were fully booked. Many visitors provided stories and photos that will help with a local history project to be run by the Trust next year.

The council is carrying out work on the building to remove weeds and make repairs. Safety inspections will be carried out on parapets and the statue, and the large crown sign is likely to be removed.

For the latest updates on the Criterion, and other news from Gosport Borough Council, visit www.gosport.gov.uk/pressreleases