Cinema plan for Kentish Town back on
Exclusive: Operators Art House in Crouch End in line to run new screen
15 November, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
IF the long quest for a new cinema in Kentish Town was a movie, it might be something of an epic, full of twists and turns, highs and lows.
But it emerged this week that the script suddenly looks set to have a happy ending again after developers confirmed that they are reviving plans to open one in the former Pizza Express building on the corner of Prince of Wales Road.
The New Journal can reveal that cinema operator David Kelly has teamed up with Art House, an independent cinema in Crouch End, to push on with an 80-seat auditorium.
“We are planning to link up and get it open there,” he said.
The news will be a delight to film fans who have been left deflated by the five years of so far unfulfilled pledges to open a cinema on the corner with Kentish Town Road, a site that was the former North London Polytechnic College
many years ago.
The building has stood empty and shrouded in scaffolding after developers Uplift ran out of cash half way through an ambitious project to convert the 1928 brick building into flats and a lower-floor cinema.
The latest twist has seen Kentish Town-based developer Vabel buy the site – and sign a deal to make the silver screen dream become a reality.
A contract with terms has been drawn up and is due to be signed imminently. The cinema will seat around 80 people and include a cafe – and Mr Kelly said he wants it to be used throughout the day by schools, colleges, care homes and social groups, as well as offering a unique and varied programme.
He added: “We have great connections with local groups and the idea is not to have it only busy between 5pm and 11pm, but make it a place for all in the heart of Kentish Town. It won’t be upmarket, it won’t be expensive – we are not going to go down the road of other expensive independent cinemas. We want to make sure it represents the people of the area, that everyone can afford to come and everyone will want to. That means a programme that attracts as wide a group as possible, which isn’t easy with one screen, but something we will aim for.”
Art House in Crouch End has a loyal following and regularly hosts exclusive question-and-answer sessions with directors and actors to supplement their film screenings, while also offering stand-up comedy nights.
Planning permission was granted for the Kentish Town cinema five years ago and various cinema firms looked at the space. Film director Mike Figgis expressed an interest in using the building for a new arts centre.
But despite the “cinema coming soon” signs on the outside after Uplift’s project ran into trouble, the site has sat empty, without a roof, for over two years. A fresh application is now lodged at the Town Hall, asking permission to tweak the layout of flats to better suit the current market.
Alan Morris, who lives in a block of houses next door in another wing of the former polytechnic, said he welcomed the news. He told the New Journal: “We are very relieved and hopeful that we have a decent and experienced developer. It is a case of so far, so good.”
Civic group Kentish Town Road Action said they were “delighted” and backed the new change to change the layout of flats.