NOTE: The East Dulwich Picturehouse has now revised its opening date from Friday 17 April to Thursday 23 April

After years of campaigning for a cinema in the area, East Dulwich Picturehouse is finally set to open on Thursday 23 April, delivering more than just movies… Words by Karen Jensen-Jones

It’s been a long time coming,’ says Dena Blakeman, marketing manager for East Dulwich Picturehouse. ‘I’ve campaigned for many years to get this off the ground and I’m so excited, not only for myself and my family, but for the whole community, that it’s finally happening.’

The hoardings surrounding St Thomas More Hall have come down and the new cinema will open its doors on Friday 17 April. You can expect three screens, state-of-the-art digital projection and sound technology, as well as a destination cafe/bar boasting creative food, boutique beers and proper coffee.

With over 20 years’ experience in the film industry, as a film critic and in marketing, Dena’s love of film is what prompted her campaign for a local cinema, and finding the right location and premises was key to the success of it.

‘Living locally meant I could keep an eye out for the right opportunity and after exhausting many other buildings, St Thomas More Hall, which is owned by the church, became a promising option. It’s a beautiful old building with lots of history and, fortunately, the church were very keen that the hall should continue to serve the community, and not be sold to developers,’ says Dena. ‘They loved the idea of a cinema where everybody in the community would benefit and my first choice of operator, Picturehouse Cinemas, expressed an interest immediately.

East Dulwich Picturhouse

East Dulwich Picturehouse on Lordship Lane

‘Picturehouse Cinemas has built its reputation on providing local communities with a diverse programme of films, with neighbouring Brixton, Clapham and Greenwich benefiting from their strong community ethos.’

Once the build was under way, the usual bland protective hoardings around the site were livened up with colourful graffiti by Pure Evil, Roo and Claire Rye, a project headed up by local street art champion Ingrid Beazley. Thanks to her various projects, including Baroque on the Streets, which saw street artists reinterpret some of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Old Masters for Dulwich Festival 2013, East Dulwich has built quite the reputation for street art recently.

As well as the best mainstream films, independents, world cinema, art house films and documentaries, the cinema will also offer special clubs for pre-schoolers, university students and the over 60s. There’s also an Alternative Content programme showing films live from the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Bolshoi Ballet and the Met Opera. Alongside this impressive and diverse range of output there will be an equally impressive licensed bar and cafe.

East Dulwich Picturehouse will have a stylish cafe and bar

East Dulwich Picturehouse will have a stylish cafe and bar

‘An all-day cafe and stylish bar will be an integral part of the Picturehouse,’ confirms chef and general manager Amy Houston, a Picturehouse employee of many years. Amy also co-founded south London-based Blanch and Shock, a bespoke catering company known for its innovative ideas. ‘It extends the cinema as a meeting place for any time of the day and evening and makes the occasion more sociable in a way that a carton of popcorn never can.

‘We’re offering simple breakfasts with our own Fairtrade blended coffee and artisan pastries during the week, and a hearty brunch at the weekends with chorizo and chilli scrambled eggs on sour-dough topping the menu. Light salad lunches with herbs from the roof garden and plenty of healthy options for the kids take the menu through to the evening, when light bites and quality wines and beers are on offer. And we’ll be using local suppliers such as Franklins, Moxons and William Rose Butchers.’

East Dulwich Picturehouse's court yard

East Dulwich Picturehouse’s court yard

A self-confessed foodie, Amy is keen to combine her passion for food and quality beverages with her love of cinema with theme nights to complement particular films. A Martini, shaken and not stirred, is perhaps an obvious choice for the latest James Bond film, Spectre, coming out later this year.

With Kids Club on Saturday mornings and an educational programme working closely with neighbouring schools, it seems there really is something for everyone at the East Dulwich Picturehouse, but if film really isn’t your thing, and you can’t be persuaded, then it’s worth checking out if only for the chorizo and chilli scrambled eggs!

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