Soho Theatre unveils its new site | Preview peek at how a former music hall will be converted

Soho Theatre unveils its new site

Preview peek at how a former music hall will be converted

The doors to the historic London venue that will become a new outpost for the Soho Theatre have been opened to the public for the first time in more than 15 years today.

Visitors to an open day at the former EMD Cinema in Walthamstow are being given a virtual-reality look at how the 1,000-seat auditorium will look once it has been refurbished. 

The image above shows how it is expected to look, but this is how the interior is today:

EMD cinema inside

The site in Hoe Street has been used for public entertainment since 1887, when the Victoria music hall opened there, and in its heyday hosted the likes of the Beatles, Duke Ellington, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, The Ronnettes and The Who. 

The former cinema is also where Alfred Hitchcock, who grew up in nearby Leytonstone watched films as a child.

Waltham Forest Council has bought the art deco building  for £2.8million and once it fully reopens it will be operated by Soho Theatre with a focus on programming comedy acts who have outgrown its 160-seat central London venue but who do not want to play the 3,000-seaters such as at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo.

Shappi Khorsandi, who is a trustee of Soho Theatre, said: ‘After 20 years of running one of UK’s very best venues for comedy on Dean Street, this next step for Soho Theatre taking shape is amazing.

‘I’ve performed in the borough many times over the years. I’m so excited to see this historic Waltham Forest building be given a new lease of life. The ambition is to create the finest theatre for comedy in the UK, sitting between London’s more intimate spaces and the bigger arenas – which is brilliant news for performers and audiences.’

Waltham Forest council leader Clare Coghill added: ‘I hope this venue, which inspired a young Alfred Hitchcock, will once again bring laughter, joy, and pleasure to audiences. And who knows – perhaps the makers, radicals, and creative superstars of tomorrow will be among the new generations to be inspired to create something amazing by this breathtaking venue.’

Granada cinema exterior

After opening as a music hall, the Victoria was converted to become the area’s first dedicated cinema in 1907. In 1930, the site was completely redeveloped and the Grade II* listed building which stands today was constructed as a Granada cinema, with 2,700 seats and a Christie organ which is played before screenings

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,  finally becoming 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 retained as an into an entertainment venue. In 2016 the building the foyer was turned into the  Mirth, Marvel and Maud pub, with the smaller cinema occasionally hosting live comedy.

from 1900

The venue in around 1900

Published: 21 May 2019

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