Cineworld closures raise questions about future of Filmworks development
Another twist in Ealing’s long and so far fruitless quest to get a cinema has occurred with the announcement by Cineworld that they intend to close all their cinemas.
The company is the owner of the Picturehouse chain which was the intended tenant for the eight screen, 1,000 seat cinema complex which was to be at the centre of the Berkeley Group’s Filmworks project on The Broadway.
Cineworld has announced that all of ts outlets in the US and the UK are to close from this Thursday (8 October). The company employs 45,000 people including 6,000 in the UK many of whom are set to lose their jobs. The closures are being described as a winter hibernation and it is believed the announcement is partly a response to the postponement of the release of the new James Bond film. The company reported a £1.3billion loss for the first half of the year due to the pandemic.
Ealing Council and council leader Julian Bell personally have pledged that there would be a cinema at the site which was formally the location of the Empire Cinema. The developers have adopted a film themed naming strategy for the blocks in the scheme which includes over 200 flats as well as retail space, restaurants and bars. The art deco façade of the old cinema has been retained.
Computer illustration of project how the Picturehouse cinema might have looked
Originally the building opened as a skating rink in 1908 and became a theatre four years later before converting into a cinema. The façade remains and the building was not demolished in 1981 as we previously incorrectly reported it had been.
The Council compulsorily purchased the site to build the Filmworks scheme back in 2015. The land had been left derelict by its former owners, Empire cinema, and selected as Land Securities as their chosen developer. Subsequently when the site remained undeveloped the scheme was handed over to Berkeley.
In 2016 Julian Bell said, "Ealing town centre has been without a cinema for far too long and a great deal of work has been going on behind the scenes to bring it back. This week I had a very productive meeting with the new owner of the site, Tony Pidgley and his team of St George, and I am delighted to say that they told me that construction work should start this December.
"After years of delays some residents may feel that we have heard these kinds of promises before, but we have confidence that St George, who have already delivered more than 300 homes at Dicken's Yard just across the road, will get on with building the cinema and this will not be another false dawn.”
At that stage completion of the project was expected by the end of 2018. Tony Pidgley died earlier this year.
St George, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkeley, is currently selling units in Bogart House, Chapman House and Olivier House with expected full completion in 2022. Prices range from £729,950 to £1,724,950 for the penthouse unit in Bogart House. It is claimed that half the units have sold but local estate agents have expressed some scepticism pointing out that equivalent units are available currently in the Dickens House development at lower prices on the secondary market.
The developer still believes that Picturehouse will open a cinema in Ealing as planned with an October 2021 date expected.
A spokesperson for St George said, “We are pleased with the progress at Ealing Filmworks and look forward to welcoming the first residential occupations early next year. As planned, this will be followed by the delivery of full completion in 18 months’ time.
“St George is scheduled to handover the shell and core space to Picturehouse in early 2021, enabling the commencement of a 6-9 month fit out programme, allowing for its opening in 12 months’ time.”
Am Ealing Council spokesperson said, “The residents of Ealing have been waiting many years for a cinema and the council absolutely expects a cinema on the Filmworks site.
“We recognise that Cineworld and Picturehouse are temporarily suspending their operations due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, but this pandemic will end and we will want to enjoy visits to our local cinema as and when we are able.”
We have asked Cineworld what its intentions are currently for the site but we are yet to receive a response.
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October 15, 2020