No plan for new cinemas in Lewisham

Gaumont Palace's remains, Lewisham High Street, 2009

Remains of the Gaumont Palace, Lewisham High Street, 2009

Now being the last London borough without a cinema (Walthamstow saw the opening of a cinema last year), we carried out a brief survey to find out if there were any plans for new cinemas in Lewisham.

We wrote to the Council’s planning department. Not once but several times. We never received an answer. We searched their planning database: with one exception, mentioned below, there is no upcoming projects. We contacted Lewisham Gateway, the borough’s largest regeneration project which, incidentally, incorporated a cinema in its early drafts. Their spokesperson Nicole Benford told us that “though a cinema does not form part of the first phase of work, discussions surrounding the next phase are still ongoing and as such, I’m unable at this time to confirm if a cinema will be included”.

Rumours on social media go wild… “Breaking news …. The Capitol is closing as a pub in the next 3-6 weeks and WILL revert to a cinema,” some claim. We checked with pub chain Wetherspoon, which owns The Capitol. Their spokesman Eddie Gershon confirmed that “Wetherspoon is not selling The Capitol”.

This is perhaps symptomatic of the lack of interest and urgency by the Council to promote popular culture and foster urban regeneration. There is no doubt that the demand exists: Lewishamians travel to neighbouring boroughs to watch films on the big screen. The new Picturehouse in East Dulwich is a welcoming addition to fairly local venues in Peckham, Greenwich and Beckenham. The planned opening of the Deptford Cinema is also to be celebrated, although it will offer a niche programme of art films and experimental films. A local group in Hither Green is campaigning for a community cinema. But, for the foreseeable future, we may have to rely on (excellent) grassroots cinema projects, from local film clubs to free film festivals.

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