A POPULAR Wellington entertainment site is soon to be under new control.

New management will take over on December 18, with Wellesley Cinema saying goodbye to its on-and-off owners Stewart Cusack and Keith Nash.

Taking over the facility will be Merlin Cinemas, which owns a string of cinemas in the West Country.

Mr Cusack and Mr Nash first bought the lease for the cinema in April 1999, then sold it to retire in 2007, before coming out of retirement to take over the cinema again in 2013.

From 2007 to 2013 the Wellesley was owned by Reel Cinemas, which sold it back to Mr Cusack and Mr Nash, who then reopened under Stage and Kinema Entertainment Ltd (S and K Entertainment Ltd).

Keith Wheatley, chairman of the Wellington Business Association, said: “Stewart and Keith came out of retirement to rescue the Wellesley and have done a superb job since 2013.

“They’ve shown that offering the very best can be a route to commercial success and they’ve handed the Wellesley on to new owners with a superb track record in developing small town cinemas.”

Mr Nash said: “Wellesley Cinema is being left while it is very successful and enjoys a very good reputation. It is now up to Merlin Cinemas to continue to build on this.”

The cinema will be handed to the new owner straightaway and will not close as a result of the change of hands.

Geoff Greaves, director of Merlin Cinemas, said: “We are very excited about taking over this beautiful traditional cinema following discussions with the previous operators, who are retiring and wanted to see a seamless transition to Merlin Cinemas by us acquiring their company.

“We wish them well and a long and happy retirement after years of service to the UK cinema industry over very many years in the business.

“We are confident we will be able to ensure the Wellesley continues to enjoy a successful and safe future in our group of cinemas.

“We especially look forward to introducing our popular Movie Magic Card, which makes regular cinema-going great value.

“With UK cinema attendances at their highest level for many years and a strong line-up of films ahead, we believe the future looks bright for the Wellesley.”