The future is suddenly looking a whole lot brighter for London’s cinemas than it might have appeared a few months ago. With new openings planned, including three Curzons, a Picturehouse and a long-awaited cinema in Acton, it’s bigger too.
First up is the three-screen Curzon Hoxton, which opened last week after Covid-related delays. A Gaumont Cinema until the ’50s, its Pitfield Street premises have gone back to its picturehouse roots. ‘It’s been eight years in the making and I’m proud of it,’ says Curzon CEO Philip Knatchbull. ‘It was built by the architect that did the Bermondsey White Cube, so it’s whites and blacks, with a big video wall.’
Across town, Curzon has October or November earmarked for a New York jazz club-inspired cinema under the railway arches of Camden’s Hawley Wharf. ‘We were initially offered an underground space,’ says Knatchbull, ‘but I spotted these arches and wanted to do something different. The landlord thought we were crazy but we did it. The design came out of wanting to make it feel nostalgic – hence jazz.’
Curzon plans to open a cinema in Kingston’s Bentall Centre next year, and has a new hybrid PVOD/cinema membership scheme to cater for a new kind of movie watcher. Curzon’s head honcho sees a future in which indie and community cinemas return to the high street, with bigger multiplexes struggling and leases more affordable. The arrival of a new 72-seat pop-up, Act One Cinema in Acton’s old Passmore Edwards library, is perhaps a case in point. The cinema’s directors Maire Lowe and Amanda Mason plan to open in late July, with a second screen already approved. ‘It’s going to be buzzy,’ says Lowe. ‘People are just wandering in and asking if they can help, so we give them a paintbrush.’
A truly local project, Act One has had input from another a more established community cinema – Dalton’s Rio. The Rio team has helped kit it out (projector from Scotland, seats from Uckfield Picture House) and will also steer the programming. ‘We’re really lucky to be partnering with the Rio,’ says Mason. ‘Dalston is more hipster than Acton but the diverse community is the same. It’s our plan to offer something to everyone.’
Finsbury Park Picturehouse, meanwhile, also opens this summer, with seven screens, a café, a bar and a mural from a local artist. Cinemas are back and they’re more local than ever. ‘Keep the faith,’ offers Knatchbull to anyone fretting over the future of cinemas. ‘People will always want to leave the home for entertainment. We’re not going away.’
Film festivals are returning to the city. Check out the line-up for July’s Sundance London.