There’s not much cinema heritage left in this part of south-east London – the great Odeons of Deptford and Lewisham became rubble decades ago, their sister cinema in Eltham lies derelict and unloved, and while Woolwich’s picture house gleams, it is only as a tribute to the money-making abilities of the religious group which now runs it.
In other parts of the capital, though, the battle is still on to preserve and protect old movie theatres – and in both cases, actually give locals a place to go and see a film instead of trekking to some soulless multiplex. Time is running out for both venues, which face redevelopment into places of worship.
Not a million miles from here, down in Crystal Palace, the Picture Palace Campaign wants to see the old Rialto (more recently a bingo hall) returned to cinema use after City Screen – which runs the Greenwich Picturehouse – was outbid by the Kingsway International Christian Centre. Objectors have until Thursday to get their observations in to Bromley Council.
Up in Walthamstow, Waltham Forest Council is accepting late objections to plans to convert the old EMD cinema on Hoe Street into a church by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, who bought the old Catford ABC some years back. (Lewisham and Waltham Forest are the only London boroughs without open cinemas within their borders.) Campaigners say a number of operators would like to get their hands on the cinema, which has a glorious past as a music venue as well as a cinema.
It’s pretty much fair to say that independently-run cinemas can be jewels in their community – the presence of the Picturehouse has lifted Greenwich over the past few years while Brixton’s Ritzy is a local landmark. It’s also fair to say that Catford looks drabber than before without its cinema, and a gleaming evangelical church is in no way going to help Woolwich back on its feet again. So I hope these two campaigns succeed – because if these areas get their cinemas back, then maybe it might inspire other parts of London too.