HG20070524

SILVER

SCREEN

THE campaign to restore the now closed Palace Pavilion nightclub to its former glory as a cinema deserves encouragement.

Not just because reviving the old Kenninghall cinema, which shut in 1979, would be a visual symbol of the community's success in reclaiming the streets from the gunmen and drug dealers, but because it would double at a stroke provision for Hackney's movie-going public.

In a borough with a population of 208,000 people, choice is limited to what's showing at Dalston's Rio cinema, unless, of course, you're happy to travel further afield, or pay West End prices.

In British cinema's heyday, Hackney had no fewer than 23 cinemas, but the advent of TV meant people stopped going and movie theatres were turned into bingo halls, bowling alleys and snooker clubs, or were demolished

There have been several attempts to increase the borough's cinema provi­sion in the last decade.

Plans for a 14-screen multiplex in Dalston fell through when the contro­versial Chelverton Properties scheme was scrapped and the publicly-fund­ed Lux arts cinema in Hoxton Square shut after going bankrupt in 2001. Finding the financial backing to make their dream a reality will be the biggest task for those campaigning to resurrect the Kenninghall cinema. Buying the premises and securing the finance to develop it suggests some form of public subsidy would be required for such a community-backed enterprise.

And for it to be sustainable, it would need to be a commercial success. That means screening mainstream films, not just art house, foreign lan­guage, or independent shorts, and involves dealing with the big movie distributors and that doesn't come cheap.

The needs of movie-goers from the borough's multi-ethnic community could be met by a new cinema, but cost overheads and attracting paying customers are important factors if such a venture is to avoid becoming a financial black hole.