Soho Theatre's plans for a 1,000 seat venue move ahead | Historic cinema bought for £2.6million © London Borough of Waltham Forest

Soho Theatre's plans for a 1,000 seat venue move ahead

Historic cinema bought for £2.6million

The Soho Theatre’s ambitions to open another outpost in London have moved a step closer. 

Waltham Forest Council has brought the historic former Granada cinema in Walthamstow for £2.6million. Now the plan is for Soho – already London’s leading venue for live comedy – to operate a 1,000-seat venue there following a major refit.

The building, also known as the EMD, has previously played host to The Beatles and The Who, and is currently run as the Mirth, Marvel and Maud pub, occasionally hosting live comedy. Over the next three years it will be renovated to its former glory.

Steve Marmion, artistic director of the Soho Theatre said: ‘When we get the keys, we will fill this fantastic building with a 21st Century vision of cine-variety, bringing the best in comedy, cabaret, theatre, screenings and special events to its stages, foyers and spaces.’

Waltham Forest Council leader, Clare Coghill said: ‘We see restoring this iconic site as a major boost to the long term economy making the area a magnet for people across London to visit and enjoy.’

Dara O’Briain, who is a trustee of the Theatres Trust trying to preserve old venues, added: ‘The glorious former Granada in Walthamstow has been on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres At Risk Register for a number of years… it is fantastic to hear that it will finally be fully restored and reopened.

‘I’m particularly excited that with Soho Theatre, comedy will be at the heart of the programme, filling a gap for a 1,000 seat venue dedicated to comedy in London.’

The site in Hoe Street has been used for public entertainment since 1887, when the Victoria music hall opened. The first film was screened at the Victoria in 1896 and the building was converted to become the area’s first dedicated cinema 11 years later in 1907. In 1930, the site was completely redeveloped and the Grade II* listed building which stands today was constructed. It is also believed that the site was a favourite place to watch films for a young Alfred Hitchcock, who was born and grew up in nearby Leytonstone.

Media mogul Sidney Bernstein opened the Granada cinema at the site, including a massive 2,700 seat cinema screen, one of the chain’s largest. One of the most popular features of the cinema was its interiors, decorated with extravagant Baroque and Moorish designs.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Granada operated as a ‘cine-variety; destination, screening films and also hosting live entertainment. The last live show at the Granada took place in 1973, before the hall was divided to create two smaller screens. 

Between 1989 and 2000, the cinema changed ownership several times, being bought by Cannon cinemas, Virgin and ABC, before it was purchased by Odeon.

Less than a year after Odeon took on the cinema, it was sold to businessman Mohan Sharma and rebranded as an EMD Cinema. However, the building was closed in 2003 and bought by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which planned to turn the site into a church.

But local campaigners lobbied for it to be made into an entertainment venue. In 2016 the building the foyer areas were turned into the pub, with one screen as being used as a venue.

Published: 12 Mar 2018

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