THE site of the former Odeon cinema in Newport is to show its first film in 35 years following an extensive £750,000 refurbishment that will include a 2,000 capacity auditorium.

Andy Byers, 34, an electrical contractor who is originally from Bolton, snapped up the Grade II listed building at Clarence Place when it went on the market in January for offers of more than £300,000.

Mr Byers, who has been based in Newport for 14 years, has nearly 20 years’ experience working in cinemas and was the technical director of the Raindance Festival in London from 2003-05.

Playing on the original Odeon (Oscar Deutsch Entertains Our Nation) name, when it opened in 1938, the new building will be called Neon (Newport Entertains Our Nation).

The news comes following a turbulent 35 years for the building, which showed its last film, The Last Flight of Noah’s Ark, in 1981.

Following the closure, it lay vacant for more than 20 years despite being one of the city’s most iconic art deco buildings.

It has since been occupied by Newport City Church and was even given a £180,000 facelift by Newport City Council as part of plans for Wales’ first cinema heritage museum at the site in 2011.

The venue has not hosted a concert since 2008, but a 2,000 capacity auditorium will be part of this extensive refurbishment along with a recording studio, conference space and bar.

A team of 30 builders, electricians, plasterers and plumbers have been working tirelessly on the site ahead of the grand opening on February 27, when former X-Factor finalists Rough Copy will perform in the new venue.

Speaking ahead of the opening, Mr Byers said the venue will offer an alternative that complements the Riverfront Theatre and the newly-opened Cineworld at Friars Walk with £5 tickets.

He said: “My father and mother both worked in the cinema industry when I was a child.

“My father’s now very much involved in this with us and I can’t stop him to be honest.

“We want people to have the experience; these days, the experience in cinemas is being lost. From old and new, they want something like this here that can do a bit more.

“I don’t want to compete with our neighbours and friends. We want to all benefit each other.

“We have a large Asian population with no Bollywood films for them. We’ll show a bit of everything.”