Couch Potato gets all steamed up and asks “how important is a local cinema?”

Rialto Crystal Palace

A local cinema is very important in my opinion.I expect you’re very surprised to hear that statement coming from someone who usually writes on this blog as a lounging vegetable. But, you see, I haven’t always been a couch potato – circumstances have made me that way, and if you read on, you’ll discover why.But first of all, check out the reasons why I think every every community should have its own picture palace:-  It offers a value-for-money night out, and we’re all tightening the purse strings.-  If it’s within walking distance, it’s good for the environment too.– Regular cinema-goers increase the footfall in the local community, and hence trade in neighbouring shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Jeff Daniels,Mia Farrow

–   Both a meeting point and a point of reference, a local cinema encourages social and cultural interaction with fellow residents.


–  Local cinemas are great for the film industry. One of the reasons I’ve opted for a life of home entertainment is that I hate multiplexes and to visit a decent cinema of an evening involves compromising my safety travelling home when there are fewer trains.-   Local cinemas are great for local filmmakers because they provide a place to screen their movies and generate a buzz around their work.

Bill Milner,Will Poulter

– If all the locals are flocking to the flicks nearby, couch potatoes like me will be more inclined to get off their backsides to join them.- And, last but not least, local cinemas offer escapism from today’s harsh economic climate, just like in that Woody Allen classic The Purple Rose of Cairo.

I’m sure you can think of many more reasons of your own. What’s most important to you? A chance to sing-along-a-Mamma Mia! with the local traders? The opportunity to discuss the latest Harry Potter movie with your commuting colleagues at the bus stop? The possibility that you might get a chance to enjoy watching that stroppy barmaid  from your favourite pub jumping out of her skin at the latest slasher flick?

Mamma Mia! - Meryl Streep

Who knows, but, the fact is, it’s all very well me painting a rosy picture of neighbourhood picturehouses, but how many towns these days actually have one?Not many.When I was a teenager, I often used to pop to the cinema during a day pottering around town. That was in my hometown in Lancashire, a town now on its knees, having lost its cinema years ago, as well as everything else that creates a sense of community and keeps locals spending locally. Maybe you’ve experienced something similar in your neck of the woods?

Daniel Radcliffe

Decent cinemas are few and far between, and like dementors, multiplexes have sucked all the joy out of cinema-going. I hate that multiplex ordeal, involving a depressing car ride or unpleasant bus ride to a faceless retail park with overpriced and oversized refreshments, feral kids with phones, unwelcoming popcorn-scented auditoriums, and no sense of occasion.At present, in my neighbourhood of Crystal Palace in South East London, we have no cinema.

To see a film on the big screen involves getting into a car, or onto a bus or train. We residents of Crystal Palace love to support our local shops, bars and restaurants and there’s a great sense of community – unusual for London. However, when we want to go to the pictures, we’re forced to leave our beloved town and inevitably end up spending our ‘going out money’ on drinks, meals and such like elsewhere.

King Kong

It’s incredibly frustrating because we actually have a building in our town centre with planning permission for cinema use and it was recently put up for sale when it finally had its day as a bingo hall.Furthermore, Picturehouse Cinemas were (and still are – check out their Picturehouse Cinemas  blog) very interested in this property, which was originally built as a cinema – the Rialto – back in the 1920s. They put in an offer in fact, but were outbid by a wealthy evangelical church who intend to use the building to serve a congregation living miles away in Wimbledon.

Paul Bettany

This is how I looked when I heard this news:

Scream 3

These canny buyers have to get planning permission for church use first of course, but they may well receive it. If they do, it’s unlikely that their congregation will stick around to eat and drink in the town after attending the services. Furthermore, our already congested high streets will become even more congested, and the environment will suffer from the hundreds of cars travelling the eight miles from Wimbledon to the church every week.

And of course the Crystal Palace residents will have to continue to spend their money elsewhere when they fancy a night at the flicks.Not only that, but if the planning permission is granted, the church will become the eighth church in the town – yes, we’re hardly short of churches. The name of the street the building is situated on is Church Road – get the picture?

But, it’s all very well me blaaaing on about the benefits of a local cinema, spinning my sob story about how I became a remote control-wielding slob who only watches films on TV, and voicing my desire for a cinema in my area. For all you know, I may well be the only person who actually cares about this issue.

Cinema Paradiso

But I can prove to you that I’m not alone in my longings for a local silver screen.

“If you build it, he will come.” You remember that classic line from the classic 1980s movie Field of Dreams? It rings so true. Since we Crystal Palace residents got wind of the bingo hall purchase we’ve been lining up to petition for that desired movie house.  Over 1800 of us to date have signed a petition asking the council to consider allowing a cinema at the site and over 1800 of us have joined the Cinema for Crystal Palace Facebook group.

Cinema for Crystal Palace

If you don’t live near London, you probably don’t care too much about my local concerns. But, if you haven’t got a cinema in your town and you’d love to have one, then keep an eye on this issue (you can check out the Picture Palace Campaign website here) because the outcome may well set a precedent for other communities across the UK.What do you think – shouldn’t every  community deserve a cinema if they can prove they want one?

Please share your thoughts. It would be great to get a discussion going on this.

On Facebook? Connect with Movie Talk on Facebook here.