How the Save David Lean team runs a cinema

By - Friday 17th October, 2014

Re-opening Croydon’s much-loved David Lean cinema in March 2014 was just the beginning. Jill Thomas explains what the volunteers did next

The nameless David Lean cinema, as it re-opened in March 2014. Its proper name was later restored.
Photo by Liz Sheppard-Jones, used with permission.

When the David Lean Cinema closed in 2011, the loss of Croydon’s much-loved arts cinema was palpable. Films were made available to an appreciative audience at the Spreadeagle pub next door, but the aim was always to have the cinema itself re-opened. And some three years later, thanks to the efforts of the Save the David Lean Cinema Campaign committee headed by chairman, Adrian Winchester, and with the co-operation of Croydon Council, in March 2014 we were once again able to open the doors of the cinema.

Opening night was a triumph! But then we had to get down to the hard work of running a cinema. How exactly does a film get onto the Clocktower screen?

It’s quite an undertaking – as we always knew it would be

Films need to be chosen carefully and booked from the appropriate distributors. Posters and trailers for them should arrive on time, but often don’t. Technical problems can crop up and need to be dealt with at top speed. Stewards, projectionists and box office volunteers must be trained and rostered, publicity material printed and distributed and the accounts kept in order. It’s all quite an undertaking – as we always knew it would be.

Our committee is made up of members with relevant experience in film programming, box office, finance, film projection, administration and publicity, and business is dealt with at our monthly – and lengthy! – meetings. Working alongside us is a valued team of over thirty volunteers who give up their time to help with stewarding, projection and box office. Drawn from all walks of life – nurses, IT specialists, retired folk – what they have in common is their commitment and enthusiasm for film.

So far we have shown 32 films as diverse as the foreign oscar-winner, The Great Beauty, the entertaining The Love Punch, the challenging Under the Skin and quirky The Grand Budapest Hotel. Films at the David Lean are not always those shown in multiplex cinemas: our aim is to continue to appeal to our discerning and loyal patrons and to draw our material from world cinema – a great tradition of the David Lean.

Hard work it may be – but it’s all been worthwhile

And we’re innovating too – a new venture is the inclusion of an 11:00am feature film for busy mothers and grandparents unable to come at other times. Our Thursday screenings are at 2:30pm and 7:30pm with an occasional programme on Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon.

Seeing the number of people coming down that slope towards the box office shows us the enthusiasm of audiences delighted to have us back. Hard work it may be – but it’s all been worthwhile.

The committee needs your help to keep the cinema alive and well. So thank-you, and do join us at the David Lean when you can. We’ll be pleased to welcome you.

Tickets priced at £7.50 (concessions £6.00) are available at the David Lean Cinema, Croydon Clocktower, Katharine Street, Croydon CR9 1ET and from Croydon Visitor Centre, near East Croydon station.

Online bookings:

Tel: 0333 666 3366 (£1.50 charge)

Jill Thomas

Jill Thomas

Jill Thomas has been a member of the Save the David Lean Committee since its inception in 2011. A print journalist for the BBC in a previous life, she has loved films since being taken as a child to watch MGM musicals in Croydon cinemas. She now contributes to publicising the films shown at the David Lean. She is pleased to see the success of the David Lean cinema showings and to know that so much pleasure is being given to arthouse film audiences in Croydon. She takes great pride in the achievements of the Save the David Lean Committee and its volunteers over the past three years.

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  • Adrian Winchester

    It would be good to have some feedback from citizens of Croydon regarding what they would like to see happen at the David Lean. We know that many people are delighted to be able to see films there again, but the work and number of volunteers needed to present around 6 films/10 screenings a month is considerable, and it will be very difficult to expand – as a community group – towards making the DLC a fully-functioning cinema. So, would you prefer to see us continue as we are now for the immediate future, or would you (e.g.) prefer to see Curzon Cinemas stepping in (if given the opportunity) and screening films every day?

    • James Naylor

      An excellent idea Adrian! Let’s discuss this – I’d be keen to see how we can help.