I wrote this for today’s Sunday Express and I’ve pasted it below.
Walthamstow’s new Labour MP Stella Creasy is heavily involved in the campaign. She brought it up when we met just before the Parliamentary recess last week. I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot about her in future years. I found her extremely impressive.
A report on its financial viability will be published which could lead to the building’s restoration, but success will depend on its current owners, the controversial Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
The cinema, in Walthamstow, north-east London, near Hitchcock’s Leytonstone birthplace, is the last in Britain with a working Christie theatre organ.
It played host to a string of Sixties bands, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who.
Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Frank Sinatra also performed at the EMD cinema, whose sumptuous interior, created by famed Russian stage designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, is still intact despite the building being vacant for seven years.
The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is the organisation that was alleged to have claimed that murdered child abuse victim Victoria Climbié was possessed by the devil. It wants to convert the site into a Baptist church but has so far failed to gain planning permission.
Its ambitions have caused outrage locally and campaigners want to buy the Grade II-listed building back to restore it to its former use as a cinema.
They have recruited the support of Hitchcock’s daughter Patricia, who lives in California, as well as that of Sir Mick Jagger, locally-born comedy actors Alan Davies and Tony Robinson and the philosopher Alain de Botton.
Walthamstow’s new Labour MP Stella Creasy is also backing the campaign and the Heritage Lottery Fund is said to be “very keen” to offer support.
The cost could be prohibitive, however. The church is believed to have paid £2.8million for the site in 2003, a cost many believe to have been inflated and more than it is worth in today’s market. The financial viability report, commissioned by Waltham Forest Council, is expected to say that £10million is needed to restore the building as a cinema, meaning any purely commercial venture is unlikely to be profitable.
Consultants are believed to recommend that the only way of securing its future as a cinema would be for the church to sell it to a charitable trust, which could then secure grant and Lottery cash. The church is still pressing for planning permission for its own scheme, however.
Ms Creasy said: “It’s a nationally important building. We really need the church to enter into a discussion with us, which they have not yet done.”
No one from the church was available to comment last night.
The building opened as an entertainment venue in 1887, 12 years before Hitchcock’s birth, and became a cinema in 1907