There’s a cinema in south-east London called Peckhamplex, which is one of my favourite places in the world. Set on the bottom floor of a car park, it’s a kind of faded 1990s dreamworld. The colour scheme is lurid, the typography can only be described as “funky”. At first glance, the aesthetic looks like it could be an affectation, marketed to affluent Time Out readers as a “retro-style cinema” selling gourmet popcorn and themed £13 cocktails with names like “The Mia Wallace”. But in fact it’s looked this way since it opened in 1994. Even better than the way it looks, however, is the price. Every film costs £5 and that’s reflected in the demographics of the people who go there. It’s a place that serves the community, but not in a lofty or improving way: sometimes people just want to take their kids to a Marvel film without spending too much money.
Earlier this week Peckhamplex announced that it would be closing temporarily, citing low levels of admissions – a local story that upset a devoted local clientele. But it was the subsequent news that Cineworld (along with Picturehouse, which it owns) was also temporarily closing its doors that brought the problems facing the industry to national attention.
With Boris Johnson urging people to go to the cinema but the government offering no extra subsidies, it’s understandable that most people focused on the possible economic outcomes of cinemas closing for good, the job losses and the knock-on effects on restaurants, bars, or commercial rents. Making the economic case is important (and I do think the government should help the industry financially) but I don’t think it’s sufficient: it seems like the current iteration of capitalism would take the end of everything that makes life bearable in its stride,