Back in April we introduced you to a kickstarter campaign to re-open the Castle Electric Theatre on Chatsworth Road in Hackney, restoring this beautiful, though sadly neglected, cinema to its former glory. A whopping £57K was pledged, incentivised by some pretty appealing rewards, and so Ash and Dee, the team behind the brilliant Pillow Cinema, set about bringing The Castle Cinema back to life. We caught up with them for a chat to see how things were coming along, when we can expect to see the cinema open and get an insight into the size of this amazing undertaking.
Firstly, congratulations on reaching your Kickstarter goal (and then some!). Did you expect to receive the incredible support that you did and are you regretting having offered any of those rewards (I’m thinking about the lion face here…)?
Thanks so much! We’re so grateful to everyone who has donated and helped us get this far. The support we’ve received is unbelievably amazing! There was a moment in the middle of the campaign where we were worried as it was such a big goal, but everything came together better than we could have hoped for in the end. Absolutely no regrets, we can’t wait to make Lion Face! The notification that this had been purchased is pretty high up on the campaign highlights reel.
What came first – the venue or the project? Did you have the intention of opening a full time cinema before finding a suitable location, or did the venue itself plant the seed?
We were originally looking for a new venue to host our popup cinema event, Pillow Cinema, and the conversation developed from there. After many an exciting conversation with the Eat17 team it seemed too good an opportunity to miss! We’re really looking forward to finally having a place to call home.
What attracted you to The Castle Electric Theatre in particular?
The building is amazing; it still has all of its beautiful, original features – curved ceilings, the ornate plasterwork on the old proscenium arch.
Can you tell us a bit about the history of the building?
The cinema was first opened in 1913, running for 45 years. It closed its doors in 1958 before becoming a snooker hall, storage facility and a shoe factory at various points. We’re so pleased to have the chance to bring things full circle and re-open The Castle’s doors once again.
Once you’d reached your target and knew the project was a goer, where did you start?
It took us a while to understand the enormity of the project. It was actually quite overwhelming for a small team of two. After a lot of cups of tea and many a long day of making plans, panicking and writing lists we started to get our heads around what we needed to do and when. We’ve learnt so much on the journey so far and I think we’re finally making progress with most aspects now.
Can you give us an insight into the kind of work you’ve been doing so far?
Sure! We’ve been doing a whole host of different things and no doubt there’s so much more to come. In no particular order, we’ve been:
- Working with some interior design friends to pull together the design of the space
- Talking to builders and electricians to confirm costs and prepare for the build
- Talking to planning, licensing & building control to make sure we’re given the go-ahead from the council
- Meeting with graphic designers to talk about the design of our new logo
- Trialling box office systems
- Attending screening days to prepare us for programming new release films
- Working with our technician to ensure the space will be equipped to screen films, including choosing the right hardware
Has it turned out to be a bigger project than you initially imagined?
Definitely. But the challenge is what makes it exciting. If something’s too easy it probably isn’t worth doing.
When are you expecting to be able to open, and how much work is left to do before you can?
We had originally hoped to be open by now, but inevitably things have taken a little longer than planned. We’re about to sign the lease for the property, which means painting and decorating should be happening any day now. We’re anticipating a late September launch date, fingers (and toes!) crossed.
With the lease signed and work already under way, we’re waiting impatiently for the cinema to re-open its doors. When it does you can expect to see screenings across the full breadth of cinema from independents to blockbusters, as well as live content, film festivals and forums. AND, (this one we’re particularly excited about) there will be special WeGotTickets curated evenings bringing you cinematic classics and our favourite music movies. More on this soon…