After several decades as a Bingo venue, all seemed lost when Kingsway International Christian Centre bought the building, with the hope of turning it into a church. Various other potential sites for a new cinema were mooted, including in the proposed, but still never built development at Victory Place. However, after failing to get 'change of use' permission from the council, to turn the cinema building into a church, Kingsway eventually decided to sell the building at the beginning of this year. The news that Everyman had bought the building, was greeted ecstatically, and in no time at all, the building had been transformed, and opened to the public on November 14th, only three days after manager, Joe Kelly got the keys from the contractor.
Just a few years after this building was built, and on the other side of London, the original Everyman Cinema opened its doors in Hampstead in 1936. Known from the start as a venue screening non mainstream movies, it became a cultural beacon, but often flirted with financial disaster. Around the millennium, it was saved from bankruptcy by Daniel Brock and Paul Wise, who revived the brand, and opened a string of new cinemas, as well as buying several existing cinemas such as Islington's Screen on the Green, and her sister screens on Baker Street and Belsize Park. The chain has become known not only for its wide range of films on offer, but also for its beautiful interiors, its double seats, and for the food and drink available, which can be ordered and delivered straight to your seat. On entering, the first thing you see is the Art Deco styled bar, which I've already frequented, and which also doubles as the box office.
There was some concern locally that the process of converting a single auditorium into a 4 screen venue, might mean the loss of its grand period features, but the results, created by designers and architects at Fusion, have been rapturously received. The impressive double height proscenium and curved gallery perimeter have been retained, and if anything made more impressive in the 147 seat, screen 2. While the three smaller screens are every bit as sumptuous, each featuring different colour schemes. My favourite has to be screen 3 with its tropical green House of Hackney velvet seating , and Peter Sellers & Elke Sommer, casting a discreet eye on proceedings from the back of the room. All in all they have succeeded in injecting a large shot of glamour to the neighbourhood. At the opening party I overheard someone enthusiastically exclaiming that he half expected to walk out of the cinema and find himself on Shaftesbury Avenue.
As well as being a huge boost to the fortunes of Church Road, and Crystal Palace in general, Joe tells me that the cinema has also created 42 jobs. The staff appear to be brimming with enthusiasm, and proud of where they work, and it's a tradition of the company, that on your first day, you serve the ice creams at the front of the auditorium, introducing yourself to the audience as you do so. Joe's own debut back in 2015 at the Oxted branch of Everyman was at a showing of 50 Shades of Grey. Introducing himself to the largely female audience may have been a nerve wracking experience, but it clearly got him off to a flying start. From part-time newbie, who wasn't sure if it was anything more than a temporary career move, he advanced in a matter of months to the position of Assistant Manager, and then Manager, overseeing a major refurbishment to that cinema. In March of this year, he was asked if he was interested in taking on the soon to be opened venue in Crystal Palace. After initial reservations, he had a change of heart after being blown away by his visit to the building site on Church Road. He's also been impressed by the locals, and their long story of commitment to getting the cinema re-opened, and with how they have embraced it since it opened. The opening weekend was biggest grossing weekend of any branch of Everyman ever! Links to the community are already being forged, with next year's Crystal Palace International Film Festival due to hold screenings at the venue, as well as private screenings for local groups. Joe has also been reaching out to local primary schools. In a scheme to encourage good school attendance, where pupils are offered free films and popcorn!
It feels like Christmas has come to The Triangle, and this Christmas Eve, as well as the usual blockbusters, there will be a special screening of that old classic, It's a Wonderful Life. Oh the magic of cinema!
|Manager, Joe Kelly|
25 Church Road
And finally, a huge round of applause to these wonderful folk who helped bring the cinema back to The Triangle!
Front row, from left: Kellie Gillespie Wright, Ian Wright, Andrew Parfitt, Sarah Hamilton, Andy Quinn, Andy Stem, Jerry Green, Karen Deadfield, Chris Chandler.
Middle row, from left: Neill Roy (of Crystal Palace International Film Festival), Rachel D'Cruz, James Lightfoot, Grace Lightfoot, Mark Dunford, Karen Tempia, Martin Tempia (behind Andy's head - sorry Martin!)
Back row, Annabel Sidney