Half a century after it closed, Crystal Palace’s cinema has re-opened, following a £3m makeover. RICHARD WEEKES took a look inside
The Everyman Crystal Palace opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday night, treating scores of invited guests to a sneak preview of what they describe as the “boutique cinema experience”.
There’s plenty to pique your fancy, long before you get to the cinema listings: items on offer include padron peppers, humus and flatbread, or maybe something meaty from the Spielburger (sic) Menu, all washed down with Viña Torcida Rioja. Try ordering that at your local multiplex.
The return of the movies to Crystal Palace for the first time in 50 years represents a triumph for the Picture Palace Campaign, a community group which fought hard for decades to prevent the site on Church Road — which housed the Rialto until 1968 — from being sold off for any use other than cinema.
Yet Everyman chief executive Crispin Lilly insists the long-standing campaign was not the main reason why the company chose to open the business’s 25th venue in Crystal Palace.
“Cinemas are tricky things to find the right space for, and there are not many former cinemas in a suitable state to renovate,” he told Inside Croydon.
“When Annabel Sidney of the Picture Palace Campaign first contacted us 18 months ago, this place wasn’t available, but when it was finally put on the market, we went for it.”
Upwards of £3million has been spent turning what had been used as a church hall into a thing of beauty.
Painted throughout in fashionable dark grey, the venue has become … well, its own multiplex, with three smaller theatres as well as the main auditorium, all with comfortably wide sofa seats, Dolby Surround Sound and 4k projection.
Cocktails and decent wines can be served at your seat in the theatres, or consumed in one of several ritzy alcoves in the bar areas, both upstairs and down.
Of course the big question is, will it fly in south London?
Since the first Everyman Cinema was opened in Hampstead in 2000, the chain has spread across the country, from Altrincham via York and Kings Cross to Stratford-on-Avon.
But this is the first time Everyman has ventured south of the river in the capital.
“People still want to go out, and we deliver hospitality mixed in with cinema,” Olli Challiner, Everyman’s regional manager, said.
“It’s a full night out. We plan our film programme as broadly as we can, and we also put on a wide range of events — outdoor screenings, music, live theatre and even ballet.”
Already, there is talk that the popular (if sometimes a little niche), Crystal Palace International Film Festival, which is due to celebrate its 10th anniversary in March 2019, will be based in the Everyman, after a decade of wandering the streets of SE19 looking for a cinema to call home.
For regular screenings, which begin today, entry prices are pitched at West End levels, so you can expect to pay £18.50 for a feature.
But Lilly doesn’t think Millennials will settle for “Netflix and chill” rather than a night out at the Everyman.
“In 1984 we only had three TV channels, and the average UK adult only went to the cinema once a year,” he said.
“Now, in 2018, we have hundreds of channels, and the average person goes three times a year. It’s a virtuous circle — the more people watch film, the more they want to go to a cinema, as long as they have a good time there.”
Judging by the Twitter reaction to Wednesday’s launch, the Everyman Crystal Palace looks set to benefit from a feelgood factor in the area. No need to screen The Last Picture Show for a good many years yet.
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