Stately pleasure-domes

Source: Mike Leigh, contribution to David Thomson, ‘Stately pleasure-domes: The first cinema opened 100 years ago (arguably)’, The Independent, 17 April 1994,–stately-pleasuredomes-the-first-cinema-opened-100-years-ago-arguably-david-thomson-shows-you-to-your-seat-while-other-film-fans-name-their-favourite-picture-palaces-1370670.html

Text: The Tolmer, in Tolmers Square, close to Euston Station. It’s been dead for some time. I suppose it lasted until the mid-Seventies. It was in fact an old church, which was apparently haunted. It was the cheapest cinema in London. The last time I went it was two shillings to get in. It was grotty. The seats were very tightly packed together. Certain sections you couldn’t sit in because it was where the tramps sat. It smelt of urine. But for the film student it was a brilliant place. It was fantastically cheap and you could catch up on all sorts of films there. They’d grab anything and show it – epics, westerns, anything and everything. Architecturally it was early-to mid-19th-century. But the spire had been chopped off and it had been painted in gloss. It was horrid. It was an old shit-hole actually. It was a joy. There was and is nothing like it. In terms of movie-going, for a serious film-buff, it was brilliant.

Comments: Mike Leigh (born 1943) is a British film and theatre writer and director. The Tolmer Cinema was in Tolmer Square, Hampstead Road, close to Euston Station, London. It closed in 1972. This is one of a series of memories of favourite cinemas published in an article to mark the centenary of film exhibition (in the USA).