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Belfast cinema bid to cancel lease over noise fails

A High Court judge has told the operator of Storm Cinema at Belfast's Odyssey he cannot cancel his multi-million pound lease.

Patrick O'Sullivan had claimed the previous operators failed to disclose that loud music and vibrations from a nearby bar and nightclub would cause problems at the cinema.

Dublin-based businessman Mr O'Sullivan, whose company Odyssey Cinemas Ltd entered an agreement to sub-lease the premises in May 2006, was seeking an order to scrap a contract estimated to be worth up to £20m.

It was claimed the previous operators, a subsidiary of the Australian-based Warner Village group, failed to disclose the cinema had been subjected to serious, persistent and long-standing noise problems.

The difficulties are said to impact on three of the 12 screens at the Storm multiplex.

Delivering judgment in the case, Mr Justice Deeny held that the problems were intermittent and recurrent rather than constant, only occurred on nights when loud music was played, and more likely if a quiet movie was being played at those times.

The judge said Mr O'Sullivan was entitled to complain it was a misrepresentation to inform him there were no disputes or complaints to the best of the seller's knowledge, when there had been complaints.

However, he made clear how noise issues had amounted to “a tiny percentage of the total refunds” by the cinema after the club opened at the entertainment complex on Queen's Island.

Mr Justice Deeny said he found it “remarkable and significant” that a report Mr O'Sullivan obtained from acoustic consultants in March 2007 was not provided to either the defendants, Village Theatres Three Ltd, or the Odyssey Centre's landlords, Sheridan Millennium Ltd, until the middle of 2008.

“One is left with the conclusion that rather than seeking to mitigate his loss by curing the problem of noise, Mr O'Sullivan, the plaintiff, had repented of his agreement with the defendant and was using the noise as a justification for claiming rescission,” the judge said.

In his ruling he said he was satisfied there had been negligence, but not fraudulent or reckless misrepresentation. A hearing to decide the scale of a payout will now take place in September.

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