When the East Dulwich Picturehouse opens on Thursday, it'll be London's newest cinema. Housed in what used to be the St Thomas More Community Centre on Lordship Lane, the new Picturehouse and Cafe will be the chain's 21st cinema opening, and the seventh Picturehouse in London.
We had a sneak preview last week: here's everything you need to know about the new venue...
It's been a long time coming. First discussed back in 2013, the opening date has been put back several times. It's now officially opening tomorrow. This delay didn't stop local talent Richard Ayoade missing the press launch. He showed up eventually.
The St Thomas More Hall, dated 1882, previously housed a community centre complete with boxing ring, a school and a church. Despite not being listed or in a conservation area, the architects have worked hard to retain as much of the original building as possible: you can spot the original mahogany handrail on the stairs, as well as exposed London stock brickwork and timber roof trusses in the smaller screens.
Don't be fooled by the petite façade — there are three separate screens on site. Downstairs, the largest comfortably seats 123 with two aisles; upstairs are two smaller spaces, one with 86 seats, the other just 53. All three feature state-of-the-art curved screens and the two larger cinemas will also show films in 3D.
The programming promises a range from blockbusters to foreign language films, documentaries and stuff for kids. Plus those live broadcasts from the NT, RSC, Bolshoi Ballet and New York Met Opera. (The ones that aren't available on Netflix — and so might just be the answer to dwindling cinema audiences.)
Peak prices are £12.60 for an adult on a weekend, so if you're in South East London, cinema-hungry and strapped for cash, it might be worth heading to PeckhamPlex, where you'll be charged the princely sum of £4.99 to see any film, any time.
But the Plex is a different beast. At the Picturehouse, you've got a lovely cafe and a courtyard garden too. Sit in one of the snugs, and you'll be sipping coffee / cocktails below one of two suspended projection booths: the trap-door above your head is actually someone's office door. And unlike the sticky pick'n'mix at the Plex, this is a cinema which takes its food seriously: there are bar snacks, charcuterie from Cannon and Cannon and hand-made cakes. The main menu includes meats from local butchers W Bunting and William Rose.
It's already welcomed protestors angry about Picturehouse not paying the London Living Wage. It's a real shame Picturehouse aren't one of the 300-odd companies currently signed up, but the protest did make us wonder why retail outlets or restaurant chains don't face the same scrutiny.
However, it seems this is just the start for what could become a local institution: Picturehouse has planning permission for the empty shop next door, hoping to enlarge the cafe space in the coming months. And for fans of the brand, there are several new London ventures in the pipeline: look out for Picturehouse Central, coming in the summer, and others in 2016.