It might have been the title of a Hitchcock thriller: The Mystery of the Vanishing Cinema Seats.
But after two and a half years of dogged and determined detective work, the David Lean Cinema campaigners have finally managed to get the missing seats at the front of the art house auditorium ready to be replaced, all set for a (sort of) “grand unveiling” next month.
The work is being done all thanks to support from the David Lean Foundation, the charitable organisation named after the Croydon-born Oscar-winning director. But no thanks to Croydon Council, who allowed the original seating to “disappear”, and which owns the Clocktower cinema.
“Prior to the launch of the Campaign’s screenings in March 2014, the council re-painted and re-carpeted the David’s Lean’s auditorium,” Adrian Winchester, the Save the David Lean Campaign’s chair, said.
“However, a major issue that has remained conspicuous and detrimental has been the temporary seating in the front row. There should be three pairs of removable seats that can make way for wheelchairs, but two of these were thrown away by a rash former employee in 2013 and the other is unusable because it lacks arm rests. All three needed some renovation, but it’s far easier to restore 1990s cinema seats than to replace them.
“All efforts to establish the source of the original seats failed, and although plenty of used cinema seats are offered on eBay and elsewhere, finding ones the same or similar to the David Lean’s proved immensely difficult. Eventually cinema and theatre seating specialists Kirwin & Simpson were recommended to us, and I subsequently met a representative in the cinema last December. It was a great relief to learn that Kirwin & Simpson can make new pairs that should be a good match to the existing seats, and they can also deal with some re-upholstering of arm rests and seats in particularly poor condition.”
The cost of replacing the seats, which were removed by a council employee, in a council-owned venue, is not being met by Croydon Council. The bill for the council’s cinema seats is somewhere north of £3,000 which Winchester describes as “a large sum for a non-profit Community Interest Company”. Though it is possibly not such a large sum for the local council which recently gave a £5,000 pay rise its £180,000 per year chief executive.
Fortunately, the David Lean Foundation stepped in to meet the cost of refurbishing the council venue. “The work will take place in September and there will be a special event on September 13 to celebrate the cinema being fully intact with 68 seats once again,” Winchester said.
“It will be an opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the Foundation, and we will present, on 35mm, David Lean’s 1949 drama The Passionate Friends, starring Ann Todd, Trevor Howard and Claude Rains. We’re delighted that the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Wayne Trakas-Lawlor, will attend.”
The David Lean Cinema Campaign’s annual meeting is being held on Thursday September 8 at 7.30pm at the Braithwaite Hall in the Clocktower and everyone is invited.
“The focus this year is on ‘Listening To Our Audience’, and once the formal business of the evening is completed, we look forward to answering questions and hearing your views,” the Campaign said. “We want to know what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like us to do. Please come and air your views. There will be a film after the discussion.”
Otherwise, the David Lean Cinema is staging another strong programme of movies throughout September. Tickets went on sale this week. With seating available in all rows…
- Tickets for all screenings are £8. Concessions (Freedom Pass-holders, full-time students, claimants and disabled) £6.50
- Bookings can be made by clicking here
David Lean Cinema programme September 2016
All films are at 2.30 and 7.30pm unless stated
Thu Sep 1 ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (15)
2016 UK 90min. Director: Mandie Fletcher
Stars: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks
Edina and Patsy are growing old disgracefully and still up to their boozy antics around town. Blamed for the “death” of a top fashion icon, the pair are forced to flee to the French Riviera, pursued by daughter Saffy, the police, and the world’s press. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley, reprising the characters they made famous in the five BBC series, are joined by a familiar array of comedy players – June Whitfield, Rebel Wilson, Joan Collins, Celia Imrie, Dawn French, Kathy Burke… need we go on?
Tue Sep 6 EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT (12A) (7.30pm)
2015 Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina 125min (subtitled). Director: Ciro Guerra
Stars: Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Antonio Bolívar, Brionne Davis
The Amazon, 1909. Shaman Karamakate, perhaps the last of his people, helps an ailing white explorer search for a sacred plant. Thirty years later, believing that he has become a ghost of his former self, Karamakate agrees to join another explorer on a similar mission. Combining adventure with beautiful black-and-white photography, sobering depictions of colonial misdeeds and a fascinating insight into the worldview of endangered Amazonian civilizations, this Academy Award nominated drama is an unforgettable experience.
Tue Sep 13 THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS (PG) (7.30pm)
1949 UK 95min. Director: David Lean
Stars: Ann Todd, Trevor Howard, Claude Rains
A 35mm screening of one of David Lean’s early films, to celebrate the completion of our seat refurbishment project. In this adaptation of HG Wells’ novel, Mary (Todd) longs for Steven (Howard), a lover she turned down years ago. Later, Mary has married, but meets up with Steven while on vacation in the Swiss Alps. As their pent-up passion leads to an affair Mary must choose between two men — the husband who loves her (Rains) and the now-married man she once rejected.
Thu Sep 15 JASON BOURNE (12A)
2016 USA 123min. Director: Paul Greengrass
Stars: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel
Matt Damon reprises his role as amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne in the latest iteration of the spy film franchise. Now aware of his true identity, Bourne lives a life off the grid as a bare knuckle fighter. However, when former colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) finds him, he becomes entangled in a global conspiracy involving social media encryption, a villainous CIA chief (Jones) and the truth behind his father’s death. Greengrass returns to helm this sequel, with scenes partly shot in the DLC’s Croydon home town! *The 2.30pm screening will be subtitled for those with hearing loss.
Tue Sep 20 MAGGIE’S PLAN (15) (2.30pm)
2015 USA 98min. Director: Rebecca Miller
Stars: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore
Maggie (Gerwig) is organised, independent and ready to start a family on her own, until she meets John (Hawke), who is eager to escape his marriage to the brilliant, brittle Georgette (Moore). After a few years, and with a daughter she adores, Maggie realises her mistake and hatches a plan to get John back with his ex. All three leads are superb – especially Gerwig as the naïve but goodhearted heroine – in this hilarious, intelligent comedy about how life doesn’t always turn out as you intended.
Tue Sep 20 THE WAVE (15) (7.30pm)
2015 Norway 105min (subtitled). Director: Roar Uthaug
Features: Kristoffer Joner, Ane Dahl Torp, Jonas Hoff Oftebro, Thomas Bo Larsen
In the beautiful Norwegian fjords, a catastrophic rockslide-induced tsunami, 80 meters high, is almost certain to strike the community of Geiranger at any time. Geologist Kristian (Joner) and his likeable family are due to leave, but his final day at an early warning centre alerts him to worrying developments. If his fears prove correct, inhabitants will have only 10 minutes to reach safety. The authentic scenario and locations help make The Wave an exceptionally tense and thrilling experience, and director Uthaug ensures that you care about characters with “unusual depth for a genre film” (Hollywood Reporter).
Thu Sep 22 BORN TO BE BLUE (15)
2015 Canada/UK 97min. Director: Robert Budreau
Stars: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie
A stirring, unvarnished portrait of jazz legend Chet Baker’s career. Budreau eschews the conventional biopic model by focusing on the trumpeter’s comeback attempt in the late ’60s (similar in approach to Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead). Hawke delivers a first-class performance as Baker, who is hired to play himself in a film about his earlier years, thus offering an insight into his struggle with heroin addiction – a battle that would contribute to his death, destroy his career and sever his relationships.
Sat Sep 24 MAGGIE’S PLAN (15) (2.30pm)
As Sep 20 above.
Tue Sep 27 THE CHILDHOOD OF A LEADER (12A) (7.30pm)
2015 UK/France 113min (part-subtitled). Director: Brady Corbet
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Liam Cunningham, Stacy Martin, Bérénice Bejo
What happens to a lonely little boy, living in a big house in a foreign country? With his American father (Cunningham) playing an ineffectual bit-part in the Versailles Peace Conference, and his German mother (Bejo) showing little interest in him, young Prescott (excellent newcomer Tom Sweet) drifts gradually to the darker side of life. Corbet’s debut feature is both a handsome period drama and a wonderfully sinister psychological mystery.
Thu Sep 29 JULIETA (15)
2016 Spain 96min (subtitled). Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Stars: Adriana Ugarte, Rossy de Palma, Emma Suárez, Inma Cuesta
About to leave Spain for a new life with her partner Lorenzo, Julieta seems to be a happy and contented woman. However, a chance meeting with a childhood friend of her long-lost daughter Antía provides shocking news: Antía is still alive! In a state of anguish, Julieta abandons her relationship and her plans for the future, and begins to write about the tragic circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her daughter. Julieta is a captivating tale of loss, with Suárez and Uguarte playing older and younger versions of the title character.
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