Crystal Palace cinema campaigners given £5m price tag

An eight-year battle to re-open a landmark building in Crystal Palace as a cinema has come a step closer to success, but only if campaigners are able to match the owners’ massive hike in the property’s valuation.

The Rialto Cinema, as it looked in 1950 when re-opening under Granada. Could Upper Norwood be about to get a cinema again after 50 years?

The building, on Church Road, has a 1,000-seat auditorium. It was built in the 1920s as the Rialto Cinema, and it operated as Crystal Palace’s picture palace for 40 years before it closed in 1968, to re-open as a bingo hall.

Kingsway International Christian Centre bought the cinema building in a secret deal in 2009 for £1.25million, against counter-bids from City Screen, the independent cinema group which operates Picturehouse Cinemas in Brixton and Clapham.

But now, having been denied planning permission by Bromley Council to turn the building into a church centre, KICC has put it on the market for a cool £5million.

Agents for KICC are offering the building as a “refurbished bingo/cinema building or development opportunity”.

The building has been listed as an Asset of Community Value, offering local groups a period in which to raise the asking price, though at £5million, the owners’ may have deliberately set the bar impossibly high, while also calculating that the site would might attract interest from property developers.

The Picture Palace Campaign has consistently called for the building to be run by a proper cinema operator. But all offers from cinema operators to buy the building have been rejected by KICC.

NewsFromCrystalPalace charts the building’s history:

  • The Rialto opened on Saturday October 6, 1928, with Ramona starring Dolores Del Rio. Anna May Wong and John Stuart were guests at the opening night where Miss Wong addressed the crowds with a few words of Chinese.
  • An Australian, AC Matthews, built both the Rialto and the neighbouring Albany cinema. He also built the State cinemas in Sydenham and Thornton Heath.
  • It was acquired by the Granada group in 1950, and re-named.
  • The Granada shut its doors on Saturday May 26, 1968. Its final screening was Reflections in a Golden Eye supported by Assignment to Kill. It was converted into a Granada Bingo Club a month later. Gala Bingo took it over in 1991.

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1 Response to Crystal Palace cinema campaigners given £5m price tag

  1. There’s clearly enormous support for this to be a cinema, so that’s the only logical conclusion. It’s therefore understandable that Bromley Council refused permission for it to be turned into a church centre, but they should now make it explicitly clear that it’s also not a “development opportunity”. That might help to make Kingsway more reasonable with regard to the selling price, although they are bound to want a lot more than £1.25million. They must have spent an enormous amount refurbishing the building and much of that work would be beneficial from a cinema operator’s point of view. A lot of dark-coloured paint would be needed, though, as cinema interiors shouldn’t be white!

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