Of all the entertainment venues in Kentish Town, no cinema, the stuff that dreams are made of? So you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do you want one?’ Well, do you? I say if you build it, they will come. For more evidence, see Chicken Shop.
Kentish Town residents should be able to enjoy an equal entertainment status long available in adjacent areas, as the Kentishtowner review of the London Film Festival aptly demonstrated earlier this month.
From the eight cinemas that shone their silver screens in our patch, the Gem Picture Hall (Malden Road), which opened in April 1910, is thought to be the first. It was followed in no particular order by the Coronation Gardens (Prince of Wales Road), The Lismore (Lismore Road), Kentish Town Cinema (Gaisford Street) and Forum ABC (Highgate Road) that can be seen in the main pic.
The Electric Alhambra, The Palace and Venus were all once located along Kentish Town Road.
The last cinema in the area, the Venus – seating 185 and opened in 1970 – may be considered an oddity, as it was situated on the ground floor of the church hall at the rear of St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Church (on the corner of Kentish Town Road / Rochester Road).
Nonetheless it was fully air conditioned with a licensed bar, but had closed by 1975 and the area hasn’t seen a public screen since.
My particular memories as a young movie-goer remain of the Court Picture House – a citadel of dreams, the eternal provider of magical dust that soothed, healed, inspired and made our lives brighter.
It mattered not that burning Sahara sands were often at odds with the prevailing foggy night, or the snowy Alaska contradicted the sultry summer evening weather beyond its walls.
On reflection, the interior and 460 capacity seating were abysmal and justifiably deserving of the Palme d’Or for ‘grimiest cinema’. That was all a facet of cinema going back then, but we tend to air-brush many of these details from our minds. In truth, for adults and youngsters alike, we came out as stars.
The enticing smile of nostalgia entraps us all in gold-plated memories of days passed, but is also a powerful antidote to the blues and none more so than when recalling visits to the cinema.
It is for this reason above all others that the residents of Kentish Town must have a cinema in the area. The petition starts here: sign below. Let’s see what we can do.
Words: Des Whyman.
Des Whyman is author of Shoulder Of Mutton Field (Published by Nottingham University Press 2012)