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X-Files star Gillian Anderson calls for West End cinema to be protected

Crown Estate want picture house in Haymarket to be immune from Historic England listing

09 June, 2018 — By Richard Osley

X-FILES star Gillian Anderson has called for a West End cinema to be given special planning protection.

The actress, who also starred in hit BBC crime series The Fall, and as Danny Dyer’s love interest in Straightheads, has written to Historic England calling for the Empire Cinema’s “special qualities” to be safeguarded. She intervened after its owners, the Crown Estate, made its own application to Historic England – the new name for national conservation body English Heritage – to issue a certificate of immunity from listing.

This would halt a bid by conservationists to get the cinema listed, a process which would make it harder to change the building inside and out. Formerly the Carlton Theatre, the cinema in Haymarket is currently playing host to a stage version of Brief Encounter. Although no planning application has been lodged with Westminster City Council, heritage campaigners believe that the original interior, designed by Frank T ­Verity in 1926, is in need of special protection.

Ms Anderson said: “The Empire is an important historic cinema and a rare survivor which still retains its ornate original decoration in the main auditorium as well as the wonderfully dramatic foyer area. The building embodies the glamour of the heyday of Hollywood and I understand that it is the only remaining major cinema built in the inter-war years in London’s West End which is both largely intact and in use.  The cinema should be listed so that its special qualities can be celebrated for both this and future generations.”

The Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage, has also called for it to be listed.

And Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “The Crown Estate should cherish their own heritage. In the immediate post-war years, the Crown Commissioners proposed to demolish Nash’s magnificent Regency terraces around Regent’s Park and were only prevented from doing so by public outcry. We are determined to convince the Crown Estate that this unique palace of entertainment, built in the 1920s, should escape a similar fate and be protected by listing.”

Richard Gray, from the Cinema Theatre Association, added: “The internal decoration is of an undisputed high quality and is an excellent example of the period. “It is vital for our heritage that this wonderful survivor continues into the 21st century.”

Culture secretary Matt Hancock, with advice from Historic England, holds the final decision to list the cinema. A verdict is due this summer.

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