The fight to keep the doors open of the historic Curzon Mayfair cinema has taken a big step forward after it was granted further protection by London’s Westminster City Council.
The Grade II listed cinema, a popular venue for red carpet events and with its own Royal boxes, has been designated an Asset of Community Value (ACV). This means if the owner puts the building up for sale within the next five years, community groups would have six months to raise enough money to buy it on the open market.
The cinema’s landlord previously sought to apply pressure in 2017, when the upper floors were converted to residential use, and the landlord demanded costly noise mitigation works be undertaken. At that time, a ‘Save the Curzon Cinema’ campaign saw a petition in its defence quickly gain more than 27,000 signatures. The Mayor of London intervened to protect long-established cultural venues from ‘agent of change’ demands from new neighbours complaining about long-existing noise.
However, the next battle for the Curzon’s future looms, with the property’s lease soon coming up for renewal, threatening to end Curzon’s association with Mayfair after 90 years. The end of Curzon’s lease would seriously risk the venue continuing as a distinctive art-house cinema loved and valued by generations of Mayfair residents and Londoners. There are concerns that redevelopment plans being considered by the landlord would put Curzon Mayfair’s rare and iconic design features at risk.
Cllr Geoff Barraclough, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Economic Development, said:
“Since it first opened in 1934, the Curzon has been an important and much-loved cinema for film lovers both from Westminster and beyond”.
“It is exactly this sort of venue that perfectly fits the definition of an Asset of Community Value, as can be seen by the huge petition”.
“We can only hope that the developers and the freeholders will appreciate what is at stake here and help find a solution.“
Philip Knatchbull, Curzon CEO, added:
“Curzon Mayfair is one of London’s most loved cinemas and has served the local community since it was first built in 1934”.
“The listed wall reliefs by sculptor William Mitchell and the stunning ceiling are both iconic pieces of British cinema design. We are delighted the cinema has been officially recognised as an Asset of Community Value”.
“We are proud stewards of the venue and hope this ruling strengthens our ability to continue acting in the best interest of the venue and the local community. The next six to twelve months will be most significant in the long history of Curzon’s presence at Curzon Street, Mayfair.“
The Curzon brand was first established with the building of the cinema site on Curzon Street in 1934 and has a long and storied history there, hosting countless glitzy premieres and events for the local community. But with the lease up for renewal, and despite having security of tenure, Curzon are expecting the landlord to attempt to terminate its lease and either apply for re-development or become an owner-operator itself. The decision to grant ACV status will provide the venue extra protection should the freeholder decide to dispose of the property, but the future of Curzon’s lease hangs in the balance.
Curzon is keen to reach an agreement with the landlord for a new long-term lease, including a substantial increase in rent. This would then allow Curzon to invest in the venue for the benefit of the local community, which hasn’t been possible with the threat of eviction hanging over the venue.
Westminster City Council found that the Curzon cinema provides a distinct cultural use that furthers the social interests of Mayfair. Bolstered by evidence that most cinema-goers are local, the Council concluded that Curzon is an important community asset for the area.