Muswell Hill’s Odeon reopens as Art Deco Everyman
- Credit: Archant
BRIDGET GALTON talks to Everyman CEO Crispin Lilly about the pleasure of reviving an Art Deco gem as a boutique cinema
Muswell Hill’s Art Deco Odeon reopens next Thursday with a new name after a glorious £3m restoration.
Eighty years after it was built by renowned cinema architect George Coles, the Grade II* listed picture house has been restored to its former glory with original colour schemes and period features.
The Fortis Green Road cinema which was opened in September 1936 by Oscar Deutsche himself (Odeon stands for Oscar Deutsche Entertains Our Nation) is now part of the Everyman chain with three screens two bars, and a restaurant.
Everyman CEO Crispin Lilly said they had “taken out a lot of MDF” to reveal a “stunning building” dating back to the glamorous heyday of cinema going.
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“The restoration has been a labour of love and an opportunity to peel back the years to reveal this building’s true beauty. There is something in the walls of the great film houses of the 1930s that we believe should remain a key focus of the building. However, we have also fitted out the site with bespoke décor of the Everyman brand.”
Since joining the Everyman group two years ago Lilly has overseen a doubling of the empire to a 19-strong chain with venues in Bristol, Leeds and Stratford-Upon-Avon generating more than £12m revenue in the first six months of 2016 alone.
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This includes the acquisition of four former Odeons such as Barnet and Muswell Hill.
“These Odeons all in High Street locations have been really challenged by the multiplexes and have been under-invested in for many years. They really needed TLC,” says Lilly.
“We’ve spent a significant amount of money bringing them back to life and it’s heartening to see them brought back into the community.”
The challenge was to create the intimacy and atmosphere of an Everyman in a cinema originally built with 1827 seats.
“Working with Haringey Council and Heritage England we came up with a way of creating eventually five screens from 40-400 seats so we have flexibility of the programme we can show.”
It all started when local property developer Daniel Broch bought Hampstead’s historic Everyman cinema from the recievers back in 2000 and revolutionised the movie-going experience from faceless multiplexes to a more boutique night out with comfy seats, a glamorous bar, quality snacks and Q&As with top stars and directors.
“The idea was that cinema didn’t have to be a mass market commodity but a lovely personalised experience focused on fantastic hospitality,” says Lilly.
In 2008, the Everyman group bought seven Screen cinemas including Belsize Park, Baker Street, and Islington Green.
Now floated on the stock exchange the company drafted in Lilly who has a background running the very multiplexes (UCG and Cineworld) that helped put independents and high street cinemas out of business.
Lilly defends the out of town American-style complexes as having “rescued and regenerated UK cinema in the early 80s” when the small screen was threatening to kill off cinema altogether.
“In 20 years of multiplexes there are three or four times the amount of cinema admissions as before.”
But he adds: “I grew up living and breathing cinema but it was like cinema never grew up with me. For the 15-24 age group multiplexes are still a good experience, but they’re very much about processing people efficiently.
“Everymans and the great teams of people in our buildings, create a customer focused experience around a film. The movie is still the core but for people who find time more of a valuable commodity than money, what they got for a slightly higher ticket price is head and shoulders better.
“They feel taken care of and even if the film isn’t that great they still have a good night out.”
As he continues to oversee the company’s expansion Lilly points out that although many thought the model wouldn’t work outside North London “it is working brilliantly in Leeds and Harrogate.”
Along the way Everyman is likely to breathe new life into more historic cinemas and save some of the remarkable but often run-down buildings of Britain’s film heritage.
In the meantime despite established nearby independents the Crouch End Art House and Phoenix in East Finchley, Lilly believes the former Odeon will be a success.
“Muswell Hill has a great community spirit. It feels like an oasis. There’s been so much goodwill towards the cinema over the last year I think they will embrace it.”