KNUTSFORD’S cinema could soon rival Manchester’s Cornerhouse and Liverpool’s FACT Picturehouse after a deal was signed to secure its future.

Curzon Cinemas, which specialises in arthouse and independent film, signed a 25-year lease on Monday to manage the Studio Cinema and Civic Centre.

It will be the company’s first cinema outside of the London area and it is understood that there will be a launch event in January.

Curzon signed the deal with the Toft Road cinema’s owner Cheshire East Council after being picked from a shortlist of three bidders.

The handover comes after a tendering process which lasted more than two years.

Clr Jamie Macrae, cabinet member for prosperity and economic regeneration, said: “We wanted prospective partners to share our enthusiasm for securing the future of cinema in Knutsford – and we are confident we have that with Curzon.

“This is the best deal financially for the people of Knutsford and it secures the future of this much-loved facility.

“Curzon are a big player in film and entertainment and I know they are looking to invest to improve the facilities to match the expectations of today’s film-going audiences.”

That six figure investment is expected to include new digital projectors, a cafe and bar, improved furniture and a satellite dish so that live events elsewhere in the country - such as q&a sessions and theatre - and can be beamed into the Knutsford cinema.

Even a second screen is being considered.

Rob Kenny, director of cinema development at Curzon, added: “We’re looking at a second screen because there is space there but it depends on the viability of it.

“Having an extra screen is a major investment but it’s an option we’ll be looking at.”

Curzon is based in London and manages six cinemas across the capital with 150 staff.

It owns the renowned film distribution arm Artificial Eye and has an exhibition business as well as an online film streaming service.

Clr Stewart Gardiner, ward member for Knutsford, said: “It is really great news that one of the town’s most treasured buildings and facilities now has a secure future.

“Cheshire East Council has worked exceptionally hard in making this happen and I am delighted with this great result.

“I regularly went to Curzon’s cinemas when I worked in London and know they provide a quality experience for their customers.”