Iconic cinema inches closer to restoration

Jack Dixon reports on progress at a derelict entertainment venue that once played host to The Beatles

Granada Cinema

The former Granada/EMD cinema is now open as a pub – but its auditorium remains closed for now

Refurbishment plans at the iconic former Granada Cinema in Walthamstow are gathering pace after the doors to the venue were opened for the first time in almost 13 years.

Antic London, the pub company that owns the building, launched a ‘pop-up’ bar in the venue’s foyer last month.

Serving cocktails, craft beers, fine wines and food, the new Mirth, Marvel & Maud bar is the first opportunity Waltham Forest residents have had to see inside the cinema for over a decade.

Reaction has been positive on social media. Shaun Lockley said: “Great to see the place back in use for everyone to enjoy,” while Marcus Stow described it as “a really beautiful retro space”.

The much-loved local landmark, opened as Granada in 1930 and later renamed the EMD Cinema, has been closed since 2003. But plans to reopen it as an entertainment venue are now making swift progress.

Antic is working with developer Downing LLP on refurbishment plans for the Grade II listed building in Hoe Street.

The Soho Theatre charity, the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and Waltham Forest Council are also involved in lengthy talks over the building’s future.

Campaigners who have fought a long battle to save the cinema hope the opening is a sign of positive things to come.

Neil Gerrard, chairman of the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust and former MP for Walthamstow, said he was pleased to see the doors open but that the foyer bar represented “only one small step” towards securing the building’s future.

“We as a local community need to ensure that the next stage in this journey will see Antic London and Downing LLP working with a credible and respected arts organisation like Soho Theatre, to bring the venue back into use for our community, and for people across London to experience the Granada in its full glory again,” explained Neil.

Granada Cinema

Original features of the 85-year-old venue have been retained

Discussions between the parties involved are ongoing but a planning application for the building is likely to be submitted in 2016.

Downing has outlined plans to refurbish and extend the building to create a mixed-use leisure complex, including bars, restaurants, boutique bed and breakfast rooms, a rooftop open-air cinema and a restored 1,000-seat auditorium.

Soho Theatre also wants to bring comedy, music and stage shows back to the venue, alongside a range of educational and community projects.

A spokesman for the charity said: “We are hoping that this vision for the venue can be adapted to work within Antic and Downing’s development of the building and have held initial talks with them where we have been reassured that they are keen to work with us.”

Antic’s chief executive Anthony Thomas said discussions were continuing but that he would be “delighted” to work with Soho Theatre.

The Granada’s large auditorium was once used for live entertainment as well as films, and over its illustrious history it brought some of the biggest names in showbusiness to Walthamstow. Huge acts including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed there.

It closed as a cinema in 2003, when it was being operated by EMD, after being sold to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Local campaigners fought successfully against plans to redevelop the building as a place of worship, with plans rejected at a public inquiry in 2012, paving the way for the venue to return to its roots as a hub for entertainment in Walthamstow.

Now 2016 could be the year to see it reopen permanently.