THE former Odeon cinema in Ayr will open "as soon as possible", its new owners say - and it'll do so with a brand new name.

As reported by the Advertiser on Tuesday, Merlin Cinemas have bought the venue in Burns Statue Square after it was closed down by the Odeon chain earlier this year.

Merlin Cinemas say the facility will open as soon as possible after a refresh and rebrand - and that it will be known as the Astoria Ayr.

The new owners say they don't want the building to sit "empty and unloved" for any longer than necessary, and that further improvements will follow once it has reopened.

Merlin started up in Cornwall in 1990 and now has 18 cinemas in coastal and rural locations across the UK - though the Ayr venue will be only its second in Scotland, after the Merlin in Thurso.

Geoff Greaves, director of Merlin Cinemas, said: “Seeing a film at the cinema with family or friends is a very different experience to watching the film at home.

"With modern digital projection and sound, it is more memorable, and offers a sense of occasion.

"With the additional availability of private hires and school screenings, reopening these cinemas will bring back a valuable social amenity and help to invigorate the town centre as well as providing local employment.

"The popularity of cinema-going is returning after the damage done to the leisure industry by the close down during the Covid period.

"We look forward to bringing this local cinema back to life and welcoming customers old and new in the very near future."

Merlin says its focus is on saving and retaining older, traditional town centre cinemas or repurposing heritage buildings, offering an alternative to out-of-town multiplexes.

A spokesperson added: "Initially the company will strive to get the four-screen cinema open as soon as possible after a refresh and rebrand, bringing back cinema to Ayr which has now been without one all this summer.

"Improvements to the building will follow in time, but it is important not to let the cinema sit empty and unloved for any longer than necessary.

"The Astoria will show mainstream film releases on date, with some alternative programming and special revival screenings of cinema favourites, also event cinema, in which opera, ballet, concerts and shows are beamed in live by satellite.

"This makes it possible to experience the Royal Opera House, the Bolshoi Ballet or the National Theatre, or a popular music event in the local cinema and at a reasonable price."