Croydon’s independent David Lean Cinema re-opens for first time since start of pandemic

The David Lean Cinema reopened in Croydon last week, after a year and a half of closure due to the pandemic.

The cinema reopened with a screening of the Oscar-winning picture Nomadland on 26 October.

The David Lean Cinema, based in the Croydon Clocktower on Katharine Street, is central Croydon’s only independent cinema and runs a mixed programme of foreign film, classic cinema and new releases.

David Lean Cinema chairman Philip Howard, 47, said: “It’s been a delight to see people back in the cinema and enjoying themselves.

“My colleagues and I put a lot of work into keeping the cinema running over the pandemic, we’re really happy that the David Lean cinema is showing films again.”

Howard is employed by the Ministry of Justice but is part of a group of volunteers critical to the cinema’s operation.

He explained that the cinema had planned an earlier return in 2020, but rising COVID cases forced the organisation to screen movies virtually.

Though the cinema has close links to Croydon Council, its main source of revenue comes from ticket sales and closure forced it to rely on emergency savings.

Now reopened, the cinema runs a mix of full and limited capacity events for those still uncomfortable with crowded spaces.

David Lean Cinema external relations and publicity manager David Lavelli, 67, said: “We tend to show more art films and foreign films than you would get in a commercial cinema and we host community events.”

Lavelli is a retiree and one of three salaried part-time staff at the cinema.

The cinema has hosted dementia-friendly film screenings, Q&A sessions with actors and screenings of short films produced by students at nearby The BRIT School, a performing arts college.

The reopening means that Croydon has an independent venue to highlight its unique culture and community, Lavelli said.

The small art-house cinema was founded in the 1990s and named for Croydon-born film director David Lean, who directed classic Oscar-winning movies such as The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia.

The cinema operates both a digital and a film projector, but the latter is mainly used for special presentations and events.

The pandemic closure was not the first time the cinema was forced to close.

In 2011 council funding cuts shuttered the cinema, but a volunteer group continued screenings using the David Lean name in the Spread Eagle Theatre.

A campaign with the backing of comedian Ronnie Corbett and Downtown Abbey writer Julian Fellowes saw the cinema’s Clocktower Auditorium screen reopen in 2014.

For further information check out the David Lean Cinema website.

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