IT’S not often that Westminster City Council has the opportunity to get lots of love from a single decision but that’s what’s on offer when it comes to vote on the fate of the Curzon Mayfair over the coming months. On the one side are the anonymous owners who want to reduce the space from two screens — a huge and a tiny — to one, thereby cutting the audience capacity by 100 and the number of daily screenings from six to three. On the other is the Curzon group, which wants to refurbish the whole thing, restore its historic features — there’s been a cinema there since 1934 —and introduce swanky new sound systems.
Tough one, huh? And behind the Curzon are the umpteen celebrity actors and directors who don’t just feature there by way of their films but actually go to the pictures there. My daughter, 16, who haunts the place, saw Robert Pattinson there once. And in case you’re wondering how a 16-year-old can afford central London ticket prices — I nearly fainted when I saw that it was close to 20 quid to see Oppenheimer — the answer is that her Curzon membership works out at a few quid a film.
The little cinema is intimate; the big ‘un gives the opportunity for mass shared viewing that’s rare now
The thing about the Curzon Mayfair is that it’s even better than the other Curzons; the place is, in a word, classy. The exterior is fine and the interior finer. The little cinema is intimate; the big ‘un gives the opportunity for mass shared viewing that’s rare now.
More to the point, two screens means that it’s not just the big hits that get shown, but foreign and niche films too. Sometimes they can be a bit too niche, but in how many other cinemas can you get to see Russian and Japanese films?
In a brilliant PR move, the Curzon is to screen some of the blockbusters that have drawn audiences over the years. There’s La Ronde (classy French filth) from 1950, Au Revoir Les Enfants, from 1987, which makes you cry, and Howards End, the quintessence of Merchant Ivory, which I saw there in 1992. How many cinemas can do the same?
So, over to Westminister council. At a stroke it can keep classy cinema alive, please celebs and hearten genuine film buffs. And the rest of us can sign the petition to save it. Go on, it’s easy.
Melanie McDonagh is a columnist