Council forced to re-open David Lean Cinema after three years

Tickets for the first public screenings at the David Lean Cinema at the Clocktower in nearly three years go on sale tomorrow morning – a victory for the “little people”, and Ronnie Corbett.

Ready to re-open: Croydon's David Lean Cinema, a residents' campaign has revered the Tory council's policy

Ready to re-open: Croydon’s David Lean Cinema, a residents’ campaign has revered the Tory council’s policy

The David Lean Cinema will be re-opened on March 27 in an embarrassing climbdown for Croydon’s Tory-run council, which has incurred potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in the costs of on-going security and maintenance for the much-loved venue and building, without any of the income from the arthouse cinema or its bar since council cabinet member Sara Bashford ordered its closure.

Prior to its closure in April 2011, the David Lean Cinema was successfully covering its costs with a programme of movies which might not otherwise enjoy a run at local multiplexes, while the bar generated some reasonable income for the council-run arts complex.

The closure was even criticised by Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning screenwriter and the man behind Downton Abbey, who is a Conservative peer in the House of Lords. He wrote to Croydon Council, saying, “The continuation of your support for the cinema would be a very, very minor element in your budget, while its loss to the community, and especially pensioners, will be very great,”

Croydon Council has even had to spend thousands of pounds more on the recalibration and repair of the cinema’s digital projector, after they had it moved to the Fairfield Halls (and for a while lost it) before discovering that such a specialised piece of kit, intended for the 66-seater auditorium, could not be readily adapted to work in a 700-seater music hall. The council’s mishandling and mismanagement of the cinema after its closure also deterred private companies from coming forward to run the venue commercially.

So much for the dogma of austerity policy.

The cinema is re-opening, albeit at first for a limited number of dates, thanks to three years of dogged lobbying by the ever-growing Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign, which was launched following Inside Croydon’s coverage of the closure and the reaction against it, including from local luvvie Ronnie Corbett.

Weekly screenings staffed by Campaign volunteers will commence on Thursday March 27 with Basically, Johnny Moped, the story of Croydon’s “lost legend of punk rock” (well, that’s if you believe the publicity blurb, which is never a good idea).

On the re-opening evening, the film will be followed by a Q&A session featuring the film’s director Fred Burns, Johnny Moped himself, and Captain Sensible, also known as Raymond Burns, or the father of the director.

Subsequent screenings will be at 2.30 and 7.30pm on Thursdays, and include 12 Years a Slave and the Italian film The Great Beauty, both of which are Oscar-nominated.

The full programme:

  • Thu 27 & Fri 28 Mar: Basically, Johnny Moped (2013 UK)
  • Thu 3 Apr: 12 Years a Slave (2013 USA/UK)
  • Thu 10 Apr: The Great Beauty (2013 Italy)
  • Thu 17 Apr: Inside Llewyn Davis (2013 USA)
  • Thu 24 Apr: Short Term 12 (2013 USA)

The David Lean Campaign’s press release which made the announcement failed to state what price the tickets will be, nor whether there are any booking restrictions or concessions. But the Croydon Visitor Centre, next to East Croydon Station, will be operating as a box office for the cinema from tomorrow, with tickets costing £7.50 (less for OAPs and the disabled), although a £1.50 booking fee may be added to the cost.

Coming to Croydon

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9 Responses to Council forced to re-open David Lean Cinema after three years

  1. catswiskas says:

    “If you ever want to know what people from croydon are like, look at Johnny.”
    (Captain Sensible)

  2. maxystone says:

    This is fantastic news. As a massive film fan, the David Lean Cinema was a wonderful place to catch films that either didn’t get a large release or have stop being shown at the large cinema chains. It’s like the a mini-version of the wonderful Prince Charles Cinema in London. It’s such great news to hear that it’s finally going to be re-opened (it should never have been shut in the first place).

    • catswiskas says:

      It’s not officially reopening as such (sadly). The campaign will be showing films there, once a week (Thursdays) 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm. However, at least this is a start and no mean feat. Please do support the initiative by voting with your feet, fellow Croydon Culture Vultures.

      • You can hardly argue that the David Lean Cinema has not re-opened if they are actually having public screenings there. If it were not “re-opened”, these screenings would not be taking place.

        I realise that the party line of some in the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign is never to say boo to a goose, or anyone on the council, and therefore they are trying ever so hard not to be too triumphalist about it, but the re-opening – for that is what it is, however limited – does represent a significant U-turn for our council of Philistines.

        • catswiskas says:

          I’m glad you see it that way, Inside Croydon. It’s a little less straightforward than that. The SDLCC are not scared of anyone, just so you know. They are also a non-political campaign.

  3. derekthrower says:

    This is good news and congratulations to those people who have campaigned for this local treasure to be reopened.
    I still have to caution that this appears to be a very limited run and takes place just before the local council elections. Sorry to be the cloud blocking the sunlight.

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  5. I can reassure any readers worried about a limited run, as we have the first option on using the David Lean on every Thursday during the next 12 months.

    We have films pencilled in for May and beyond, but we plan to announce them on a monthly basis. Cinemas don’t usually advertise films several weeks in advance. Release dates can occasionally change and there might be times when a good opportunity comes up at relatively short notice, so we don’t want to have our programme ‘set in stone’ too far ahead.

    As for whether the David Lean has reopened, everyone is welcome to make up their own mind on that, but we would equate a reopened cinema with around three screenings a day, seven days a week. That remains our longer-term objective and we wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone by implying that this what’s happening now.

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