|Fiona, a long-time
contributor and supporter of Talking Pictures has run a campaign to bring
a new cinema to Gravesend. She writes:
The old END cinema closed its doors in September 2003. It had been struggling since Bluewater opened (in 1999), and had tried to keep going by showing Asian films and then Hollywood blockbusters.
It was taken over by a fundamental christian church (who incidentally have their headquaters at the old Rainbow venue at Finsbury Park!).
At least they kept the building in use for three years until the summer of 2005 when they decided to spread their word elsewhere. They used to have a poster outside saying 'worried, anxious, depressed? come and talk to us'.
I certainly was worried about having no cinema in my local town and anxious about travelling by bus to Bluewater which costs about £11 or £12 for a family of four. I was then depressed on arriving at Bluewater cinema in the school holidays to see a very long queue served by only two box office staff! I was then only offered front row seats to see the new Herbie film, and even those weren't even in a block!
I decided to write to the local paper suggesting town planners considered cinema a vital part of any regeneration in the town.
Many letters of support came in to the local paper over the last couple of months. Another local paper decided to take up the cause (although they didn't contact me first!). They have had two front page headlines including one of a picture of Daniel Craig saying 'Bring Bond To Town'.
The council have even submitted a bid to host the world premiere of the new Pocohontas film starring Colin Farrell, although how they plan to screen it without a cinema is any one's guess!
Apparently the cinema building only has planning permition for use as a church at the moment - so it will be a while before any one can re-open it as a cinema. How about the company behind the very successful picturehouse cinemas in London staging a bid?
Unfortunately Gravesend dosen't have a trendy Art House crowd - just a few pensioners that would enjoy a silver screen matinee occasionally and parents keen on a Saturday morning kids club.
Fiona's campaign seems to have come to a fiery end in January 2006. Ironically the cinema burnt down only hours after a whale died in the nearby Thames despite an heroic rescue attempt. The Gravesend News Shopper for Tuesday 24 January reported:
Residents gutted by fire at old cinema
Firefighters at the biggest blaze in the town centre for years
By Alison White
RESIDENTS have been left gutted after a landmark building was almost destroyed by a fire "too dangerous" for crews to tackle internally.
More than three-quarters of the former cinema in King Street, Gravesend, has been damaged beyond repair in an arson attack.
Firefighters tackled the fire for almost five hours on January 22.
They were called at 7.15pm but the building had been alight for "some time".
Extreme heat forced firefighters to retreat from the building 20 minutes after they arrived.
Water towers and portable equipment were used to douse the flames instead.
The fire began in the auditorium area of the disused cinema.
It then spread to voids in the ceiling, causing the roof of the building to collapse.
Many residents have expressed sadness at the loss of the building.
The building has not been used as a cinema since 2002.
Mother-of-two Claire Gould, 25, from Swanscombe, said: "I used to go to the cinema when I was young and it's devastating. It's such a shame."
Retired Dorothy Gardiner, 79, from Regents Court, Gravesend, said: "It's where we used to do our courting.
"During the Second World War you went in for a kiss and a cuddle. It's sad it's come to this end."
Charity shop worker Valerie Richie said: "To see a building like this destroyed is depressing."
Police closed King Street, Milton Street, and part of Queen Street so firefighters could tackle the blaze.
A small number of residents were evacuated from their homes in Queen Street.
Operations manager for north Kent division of Kent Fire & Rescue Graham Gosh said: "It was too dangerous to put people in to fight it internally.
"The fire went unnoticed as it's a big ceiling and it probably absorbed the heat and smoke. It was obvious it had been burning for some time."
Thames-side sub-officer Chris Peacock said: "It's the biggest fire in the centre of the town for years."
Investigating officer PC Nick Webber said: "We are appealing for anyone who saw anything suspicious at the back of the cinema prior to 7.15pm to contact the police."
Anyone with information should call
PC Webber on 01474 565221.
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