A NEW cinema in the centre of Abingdon is hoping for a practically perfect opening this week with screenings of the Mary Poppins sequel.

The much-awaited launch date for the Abbey Hall venue will take place on Friday.

It follows months of refurbishment work which is still being completed this week.

Husband and wife, Ian and Sue Wiper, who run independent Evesham cinema The Regal in Worcestershire are behind the transformation, having worked in partnership with building owner Abingdon Town Council since the start of the year.

Mrs Wiper said: "We are absolutely delighted at last to be opening at the Abbey Hall and we have a fantastic slate of films coming up."

Pride of place in the revamped space is a state-of-the-art ten-metre projection screen, which was installed last week, along with acoustic wall coverings and Dolby 7.1 surround sound. A tiered seating area, designed to give perfect views from classic cinema seating, meanwhile, is in the final stages of being installed.

There is also a brand new professional kitchen and a renovated bar which will also allow customers to enjoy light meals and drinks while watching a film.

The opening will mean the Abbey Hall, which has been closed since August 2015, will finally be back in public use. Initially proposed almost a year ago, a rental deal was agreed in April, covering until the summer of 2020.

Dreams of opening a cinema in the Guildhall extension seemed doomed after a major revamp was rejected by the town council in January 2017 when it was decided the scheme was financially unviable.

The £3.5m project was first proposed in 2013, with a 200-seat cinema set to form the anchor of a redevelopment of the hall, which would have also created a new cafe-bar.

Council leader Mike Badcock, said: “The council has worked very hard with the Regal this year to bring professional cinema to the Abbey Hall.

"Together with the Regal we have invested to improve the Abbey Hall alongside the Guildhall and there have been many challenges along the way.

"I am delighted that the cinema is opening before Christmas. We are very much looking forward to working with the Regal in providing a facility which will be much appreciated by local residents.”

The Abbey Cinema will be kick off its Christmas run with Mary Poppins Returns on its national release date, with a drinks reception at 6pm ahead of a 7.30pm screening of the film.

Over the festive season the cinema will be showing family-friendly box office hits including Wreck It Ralph 2 and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

Yuletide classics will also be on show, such as It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Full screening times are available via theabbey.ac or search the Abbey Cinema on Facebook.

A more formal opening is planned for the new year.