An arts venue that hosted the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and James Brown is set to reopen after a deal was struck for a £17 million refurbishment.
Waltham Forest council has bought EMD Cinema for £2.8 million and plans to turn the Grade II listed building — which closed after falling into disrepair — into a 1,000-seat auditorium in partnership with Soho Theatre.
The plan is for a “local theatre with a national profile” that attracts big-name comics and musicians, as well as offering community and education programmes.
Dating back to 1887, the venue is where Alfred Hitchcock is said to have watched films as a young man.
Bought by moguls Sidney and Cecil Bernstein of Granada Theatres in 1930, the former dance hall was turned into a 2,697-seat “super cinema”.
Throughout the Fifties and Sixties the building — complete with chandeliers and a William Morris-inspired decor — screened films and hosted some of the biggest names in music, including Johnny Cash, The Who, Little Richard, The Kinks and Roy Orbison.
It closed as a cinema in 2003 and was bought by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God before falling into disrepair. In 2009, Sir Mick Jagger led a campaign to save the “beautiful, important” cinema which was backed by comedian Meera Syal and Tony Robinson, the actor and presenter.
Until now it has been in development limbo, having partially reopened four years ago as the pub and arts complex Mirth, Marvel and Maud.
In March, Waltham Forest councillors approved the purchase of the site from EMD Walthamstow LLP and the council confirmed the sale this week. The project’s backers say work on the revamp will start next May and is expected to take three years to complete.
Comedian, author and Soho Theatre trustee Shappi Khorsandi said: “After 20 years of running one of UK’s very best venues for comedy on Dean Street, this next step for Soho Theatre taking shape is amazing. The ambition is to create the finest theatre for comedy in the UK sitting between London’s more intimate spaces and the bigger arenas — which is brilliant news for performers and audiences.”
Council leader Clare Coghill said: “I hope this venue will once again bring laughter, joy, and pleasure to audiences.” London’s deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries, Justine Simons, praised the “wonderful renovation project”.
Source: Evening Standard