Lean times ahead for Croydon’s arthouse cinema lovers

Doctor Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia…

The master at work

David Lean is something of an icon as far as Inside Croydon is concerned, a film maker as great as Alfred Hitchcock or Steven Spielberg.

Yet Croydon’s most famous son is ill-served by the modern Croydon, where the council-funded cinema which carries his name is due to close on April 21, a victim of funding cuts.

The 60-seat arthouse cinema – a sort of NFT without having to schlepp to Waterloo – is staging a three-week festival finale, backed by Ronnie Corbett and Julian Fellowes (the actor and Oscar-winning screenwriter, whose Gosforth Park is the most popular film to have been shown at the David Lean Cinema on Katherine Street since it opened 16 years ago).

The Last Picture Show series is made up of one-off screenings, special events and old favourites. The David Lean Cinema is rightly regarded as an antidote to the impersonal and all-consuming multiplexes – no popcorn munchers, no twerps Tweeting or using their mobile phones when the film is being shown.

Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif in Lean's timeless classic, Lawrence of Arabia

Lean was born in Blenheim Crescent, South Croydon in 1908 (the suburban semi carries a blue plaque to commemorate the fact). With seven nominations as Best Director, Lean is the third most nominated director in Oscar history. He won two Oscars, for Kwai and for Lawrence.

According to Lean himself, his upbringing in Croydon was often influential in his movies – for instance he says he borrowed the noisy and exciting trams rattling past the Swan & Sugarloaf pub for a scene in revolutionary Russia in Doctor Zhivago.

The David Lean Cinema’s location in the imperiled Clocktower Arts Centre is also most fitting as far as Lean’s own local cinematic history is concerned. Lean’s formative visits to the cinema were in two buildings close by, as this BBC online feature shows: the Scala – within the current Allders building – and the Orpheum on Surrey Street – now some horrible offices and the Goose pub.

Films to be shown throughout the three-week David Lean Cinema festival which opens on April 1 include: The King’s Speech, On the Waterfront, Bandwagon, Random Harvest, A Night to Remember, Singing in the Rain, Blithe Spirit, The Red Shoes and, on the final night, The Last Picture Show.

Inside Croydon will be having an office outing to see one particular favourite of ours, Lean’s own Brief Encounter, complete with its moving Rachmaninov soundtrack.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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1 Response to Lean times ahead for Croydon’s arthouse cinema lovers

  1. elviera88 says:

    Very sad to see this go, philistines 🙁

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