The Secret Cinemas of Richmond

Although we’re blessed with some fine theatre in the area, there’s very little written about the riches of cinema in and around Richmond.   And that’s probably because most people only know of the (thankfully refurbished) Odeon sitting at the top of Richmond Bridge… and the smaller, pokier Odeon hidden around the corner.

The Richmond Curzon

OK – there’s one more obvious cinema – the Richmond Curzon, previously known as the Richmond Filmhouse.  I’ve always been drawn to this place, not because of  its strange office-like facade, but because of its history.  In 1914 there was a much bigger ‘New Royalty Kinema’ in it’s place – seating an audience of more than 1000 (seven times greater than the current capacity) and it remained the same size til it was demolished in 1983.

Due to a stroke of luck a covenant on the building insisted that it was used as a cinema and just seven years later, in 1990, the Filmhouse was opened, with no small thanks to Richard Attenborough and David Puttnam.  Of course it was taken over by the Curzon group in recent years, who have showered it with love.

The Hampton Palaceum (unfortunately just a model)

NB. If you want to know more about the history of cinema in Richmond, there’s a great page on the Twickenham Museum website full of facts about movie theatres I had previously never heard of,  including the Lyric Palace, The Palaceum in Hampton, The Gaiety, The Regal Cinema, The Twickenham Cinema and the great Luxor.

But now I can hear you scratching your heads.

“Where else is there a cinema in the Borough?  Yes we know about Kingston cinema, but that’s just over the border into the darklands”.

Well the good news is that there are several other cinemas living and growing in the area, although they are only part-time.

For nearly fifty seasons the the Richmond Film Society have selected and presented 15 movies, showing them at the Richmond Adult and Community College on alternate Tuesdays.  Annual membership costs just £50 a year, and when space allows you can bring a guest for a fiver.  If that’s not good enough, the College sits right between the Old Deer car park and Richmond Station, so it couldn’t be easier to get there.

Arthurs On The Green

Arthur’s on The Green in Twickenham has been showing classic films for many years.  Converted from an old public toilet building, I’m not sure which is more unusual – a restaurant that shows movies, or a cinema in an old loo.  But they present great films every Sunday, ranging from recent ‘blockbuster but cool’ releases (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to a selection of French flicks.

You can check the programme on their website, and the £25 entrance includes a dinner themed around the subject of the film – the starter and main course eaten before the curtain rises (or the screen lowers).

The Bear, also in Twickenham, is another local film-spot, albeit with a more commercial slant.  Again their shows are on Sundays, but start with a family friendly movie at 3pm followed by the 8pm showing for grown-ups.  Entry is free, and there’s even free popcorn to accompany your beer – that you have to pay for.  There’s a good vibe all afternoon/evening.

The Olympic Cinema. I can’t wait!

But the greatest cinematic excitement is heading to Barnes – at the site of Olympic Studios (you know, opposite Sonny’s).  Well its actually the site of the old Picture House, so its no stranger to the movies.

Details remain scant at this point but the website says “The Olympic Cinema will screen a comprehensive range of quality mainstream and art house films on general release – seeing a return to the building’s roots as a local cinema; boutique in style, with an emphasis on comfort.”  They also say they hope to open in October 2013 (at least 18 months later than originally planned).

Finally there are often movies showing at Kew Gardens (open air)…. and you can take a picnic.   Sounds like fun.