Residents unveil vision to restore Embassy Cinema into 'cultural epicentre' of Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham
PUBLISHED: 07:00 06 August 2019 | UPDATED: 08:11 06 August 2019
Plans to bring a banqueting suite in Chadwell Heath back to its former glory as an art deco cinema have been given the green light by architects and independent cinema consultants.
Chadwell Heath South Residents' Association has been working on the plans to restore the Embassy Cinema in High Road and the project is now at a pivotal stage.
The building is currently owned by Mayfair Venue and used for weddings and functions, but the owners and residents' association have been discussing the restoration for the last two years.
Embassy Cinema, offering 1,800 seats, was originally opened in 1934 by the mayor of Ilford - it also offered theatre, live variety shows and organ performances and it even had a ballroom for dancing to an orchestra.
Designed by Harry Weston, the building has been used a bingo hall and a banqueting suite since the cinema closed in 1966.
The bingo hall closed in 2014 and the building reopened in 2015 as the Mayfair Venue.
But residents want to create a new "cultural epicentre" of Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham by restoring the building to a two-screen cinema and shared community space - a project which is estimated to cost more than £3million.
Embassy Cinema was listed an Asset of Community Value in 2017 - the green light for the residents to launch their restoration project.
Last year, Mayfair Venue worked with the Chadwell Heath South Residents' Association to screen the first film since 1966. Titanic was chosen to pay homage to Eva Hart, a famous Chadwell Heath resident and survivor of the 1912 disaster.
During the film's intermission and buffet dinner, the audience were treated to jazz music and invited to end the evening with dancing.
This is the vision for the cinema, says Ramanan Muraleetharan, chairman of the residents' association.
"We have ambitious plans to make the Embassy Cinema one of London's finest art deco experiences; the catalyst which results in a rejuvenation of the surrounding area, that can have a lasting impact for generations," he said.
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Members of the public at the meeting described the cinema as being "an asset to both boroughs" and a "glamorous place to go".
Last year, the residents' association was awarded £14,940 by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to fund a feasibility study for the project.
David Sin, head of cinemas at the Independent Cinema Office, and Stefanie Fischer, of Burrell Foley Fischer Architects, presented their findings at a meeting on Tuesday, July 30, both giving the project the green light.
"It could soon quickly become the town's main community hub," Mr Sin said. "It can become an icon for Chadwell Heath and come to represent Chadwell Heath."
He said the cinema, which would operate as a community enterprise and charitable trust, would provide employment for at least seven full-time staff.
He estimates that two screens would bring in 76,000 admissions in the first year and an extra 3,200 visits for live arts events, and total income from the first year could reach £861,000, with a surplus of £75,000.
It would cost around £2.8million to restore the building and an extra £275,000 to fit the cinema screens and equipment.
Architect Ms Fischer envisions reopening the glass frontage of the building and reinstating the illuminated signage.
Her plans include comfortable seating, a cafe and bar area at the entrance, and the reinstatement of an orchestra pit. A mural might also be commissioned for the entrance hall.
"Many of the original features are still there," she said. "It was streamlined art deco."
Peter Hammond from Taylor-Hammond Associates, a company which focuses on restoring organs, has also been brought on board to discuss the possibility of bringing an organ back to the Embassy Cinema.
"It will add historic value and complete synergy with what we are trying to achieve in trying to bring the building back to life in a completely modern way," Mr Hammond said.
With regards to ownership of the building, Mr Muraleetharan said negotiations were ongoing.