Director Steven Spielberg has said it would be a “farce” if Curzon Mayfair closed, as he joins a star-studded list supporting the cinema campaign to avoid closure.
The Curzon Cinema in Mayfair first opened in 1934 and has been described by Historic England as one of the ‘best surviving post war cinema buildings’.
Now a historic landmark in central London and a venue that has played host to recent red carpet premieres such as Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion, the cinema’s lease is due to expire in March 2024.
Curzon has formally requested a new lease and hopes to reach an agreement with the landlord. But the landlord has indicated that he has other plans.
“Although we are eager to sign a new lease, our landlord has made an alternative proposition for the site which threatens our residence,” the cinema said.
Curzon’s owner, US-based Cohen Media Group, has also laid out plans to update and refurbish the building to better cater to the community.
“This would then allow Curzon to invest in the venue for the benefit of the local community, who have been unable to do so with the threat of eviction hanging over the venue,” wrote councilor Patrick Lilley in his petition, which he collected further on. 19,200 signatures.
Mr Lilley wrote: “With the lease up for renewal, and despite having security of tenure, Curzon expects the landlord to attempt to terminate the lease by either applying for redevelopment or becoming a landlord operator – the only two reasons for violating the current lease agreement.”
Spielberg supported the petition.
He said: “I had the privilege of being there just a few months ago for the UK premiere of my new film, The Fabelmans, and it would be a travesty if Curzon weren’t there anymore to host such special events.”
He and Tilda Swinton, Toby Jones, Emily Mortimer, Imogen Poots and Rebeccan Hall showed their support to get the cinema going.
Swinton said: ‘The Curzon Mayfair is not only an important and beautiful building, it is a cultural generator without which the social health of central London would be greatly undermined.’
Filmmakers PaweÅ‚ Pawlikowski, Joanna Hogg, Charlotte Wells and Peter Strickland are among those who have signed Mr Lilley’s petition.
Imogen Poots said: “We have to save Curzon Mayfair. Losing such an important and necessary venue for independent cinema is deeply troubling. It seems indicative of what further decisions might be made regarding physical film institutions.
The cinema has been granted Asset of Community Value (ACV) status which it is hoped will further protect it in the future.
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: “The Curzon Cinema is a cultural jewel and an important home for London cinema. We need to make sure we protect our cultural venues, especially iconic ones like the Curzon in Mayfair.”
The landlord is required to officially confirm their plans for the venue and under the Landlord and Tenant Act. Cinema operators have the right to go to court to enforce their right to have their lease renewed.
Curzon hopes the landlord will “get back to the negotiating table” now that an application has been made for a new lease.
Curzon chief executive Philip Knatchbull said: “We have very good reason to renew the lease and are prepared to go to court if necessary to enforce our rights as an existing long-term tenant.”
Benedetti Architects, who recently worked on the redesign of Bafta’s Piccadilly headquarters, were commissioned to submit a proposal for an extensive refurbishment of the cinema.
The cinema owner had previously tried to lobby in 2017 when the upper floors were being converted to residential use and the owner requested that noise mitigation work be undertaken.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has stepped in to protect the cinema from new neighbors who were complaining about long-standing noise.