The Catholic Church in Londonderry has sold one of the city's most historic buildings because it was too much of a financial drain on parish resources.
In its heyday, St Columb's Hall was one of the key entertainment venues in the city, but in recent years it has lain empty for most of the year.
New owner, the Garvan O'Doherty Group, said it hopes to open a new chapter for the old building.
Before the sale could proceed approval from St Columb's Diocese Trust and the Charities Branch of the Church was needed and this was granted last week.
Fr Paul Farren said he was not at liberty to say how much the building was sold for, but debts of £690,000 accumulated from the hall will now be cleared and restoration work on the Long Tower Church can go ahead.
He said: “The hall created a massive debt which left us unable to develop the parish in |necessary ways, including doing work in the church, which is our |priority.
“The money will clear the debt and will be invested in the Long Tower parish, but I am not at liberty to give the precise details.
“It is an iconic building that has been such a part of the history of Derry to date and I would be confident that it will be part of the future of Derry as well.
“I know through dealing with St Columb's Hall, as I have been over these past years, that it is a sensitive issue because so many people will have precious memories of the hall and nothing that we had to do will disrespect those memories.
“The hall will be maintained, restored and developed and it is my understanding that it will remain a theatre.”
Among the throngs of Derry people who have precious memories of St Columb's Hall is Michael Bradley from The Undertones.
Although the band never played there, he recalls going there for his first gig.
He explained: “The first band I ever saw at St Columb's Hall was Horslips in, I think, 1974 when I was about 14.
“There was no issue of age then because there wasn't any drink served in the hall.
“In the late 70s and early 80s, big-name bands never came to Derry, but in 1978 Ian Dury and The Blockheads did and I saw them there at St Columb's, too.
“This was just before they had their No 1 with Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, so it was at the height of their fame.
“I saw Frank Carson there too, he was a regular at St Columb's and I read at the time of his death, his son said Frank always considered that his career began at St Columb's.
“Even as a very small boy, we went to the hall every year at Christmas for the pantomime and of course at the time, it was the main picture house in Derry.”
While St Columb's Hall is the Parochial Hall for the Long Tower Parish, it was originally built in 1886 as a temperance hall. In the 1940s and 50s it was used as a cinema and at its peak during the 70s and 80s the hall hosted concerts and the Christmas pantomime. It provides an auditorium that seats up to 860 people and is still used as a venue during the Foyle Film Festival