North-east Londoners, rejoice! One of Walthamstow’s most illustrious buildings is getting a major makeover. In its heyday, the former EMD Cinema saw performances from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, James Brown and Johnny Cash, and Alfred Hitchcock used to watch films there when he was a lad. Parts of the building now contain the restaurant/bar Mirth, Marvel & Maud, but the spectacular art deco auditorium has been closed to the public for almost two decades. Now, Waltham Forest Council has bought the place and is planning to restore it to its former glory.
Currently, the old cinema auditorium is full of scaffolding. The paint is peeling off the ceiling, the balcony seats are covered in plastic sheets and pigeons lurk among the rafters. But – like the recently opened EartH in Hackney and Alexandra Palace Theatre – a major restoration programme is planned to bring this derelict space back to life as an entertainment venue.
The council says the 1,000-capacity space will fill a gap in the market, becoming ‘a local venue with a national profile’. In a smart move, Waltham Forest (which is currently the first official London Borough of Culture) has partnered with the brilliant Soho Theatre to programme the venue. The only snag? It’s going to take three years to fix up. Once the EMD reopens in late 2022, expect some big names to make their way to E17.