For sixteen years, the David Lean Cinema, named after Croydon’s best-known film director, has brought original and exceptional filmmaking to the residents of Croydon. But later this month, after becoming a victim of local authority spending cuts, the cinema will close.
It is, says Tony Newman, Labour Councillor for Woodside in Croydon, “an act of cultural vandalism”.
The David Lean Cinema, housed in the Croydon Clocktower arts complex on Katharine Street, is valued greatly by many local people. Built in the 1990s, in an art house-style, it is a small 68-seat cinema that showcases British and world cinema. Last year it also hosted the first ever Croydon Film Festival, which is returning this year with a series of special screenings of classic films to mark the end of the David Lean cinema.
The closure of the cinema is just one of a string of recent cuts to arts and culture in Croydon. The Croydon Clocktower itself, an important cultural centre which also hosts a theatre, music venue and exhibition space, will be closed to new exhibitions and events. The Croydon Summer Festival, which entertained more than 50,000 people every year, has also been axed, along with several of the borough’s libraries and youth centres.
The cuts have provoked widespread protest with over 1,000 residents signing a petition against the Council’s decision.
During the consultation process run by the Council prior to the cuts, 71 per cent of those who responded said they “particularly value” the Croydon Clocktower and the David Lean Cinema, while 52 per cent said the cuts would have a “severe impact” on them.
“The decision to close the David Lean Cinema, I feel, is a great disservice to the residents of Croydon. This little cinema is one of the few places you could go to watch a film in peace in congenial surroundings. I was at the cinema last week, for an afternoon show and it was packed to capacity,” said Anton Howick a 27-year-old resident of Croydon.
Matthew Smith, a 45-year-old shop owner said: “I can imagine that this will have a small but measurable effect on the evening economy. I would often go to the cinema before or after visiting a local restaurant too and I’m sure many others did the same. Croydon needs places like this, it doesn’t have nearly enough places to go on an evening and I feel this decision was devastatingly short sighted.”
A spokesperson from the Croydon Council said: “Despite the strong support for the David Lean Cinema which is sympathetically recognised, no cost-effective option for retaining a 68-seat stand alone cinema in the Clocktower is possible. However, discussion with the Fairfield Halls and local commercial cinema providers for example Virgin Vue, will be undertaken to seek to source local art-house cinema provision, particularly for older people, where possible.”
Councillor Sara Bashford, cabinet member for the Croydon’s Resources and Customer Services said that the council had to make very difficult decisions. “I did get a lot of comments on the David Lean cinema. It is hard to retain when we are looking at closing libraries.”
To mark the closure, the second Croydon Film Festival will become the Last Picture Show, which will run until April 21. It will feature films such as Singin’ in the Rain and the multi Oscar winning The King’s Speech.
Tomorrow, will see a screening of Separate Lies, which will be followed by a Q&A with the Oscar winning scriptwriter, actor, director and novelist Julian Fellowes, writer of the cinema’s biggest hit, Gosford Park.
Also helping to curate the festival will be local resident, comedian Ronnie Corbett, who will introduce David Lean’s much loved Brief Encounter on April 20.
A spokesperson from the cinema said: “ We have over the years built up a dedicated audience, particularly from the older sections of Croydon’s community and The Last Picture Show is our way of saying thank you for years of support.”
Additional reporting by Tom Chlebik