A central part of Brixton …

Simone Richardson on the sad news of the closure of Brixton’s historic Ritzy cinema

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The last picture show – ticket from one of the last Ritzy showings before its temporary closure

How ironic is it that the Ritzy and other Cineworld cinemas had to tell customers that the James Bond film – No Time to Die – was on hold until April 2021, as they announced their own closure until further notice, blaming the disappearance of Hollywood blockbusters.

Over 100 years old, the Ritzy Cinema opened on 11 March 1911, making it one of England’s earliest purpose-built cinemas, with more than 750 seats in its single auditorium.

Looking now at a wonderful exterior and interior design it is hard to imagine the days when the Ritzy was known as a “flea pit”.

It was lucky to live through the Second World War when the next door Brixton Theatre was destroyed in 1940. The Ritzy has since expanded into its former site.

Now owned by Picturehouse Cinemas and operated as a multi-screen complex with bar and café, it continued to grab headlines, thanks to its staff’s long-running and much publicised campaign to be paid the London Living Wage and for other civilised terms and conditions.

The Ritzy is not the only local Cineworld/Picturehouse establishment to close its doors. The equally historic Clapham Picture House, dating from 1910, is closed, as is the new East Dulwich Picturehouse and the even newer West Norwood Picturehouse. Peckham’s Peckhamplex, not a Cineworld cinema, has been closed since 25 September.

None of the staff at the Ritzy wanted to give us a quote on their sadness at leaving – sad in itself.

Their trade union, Bectu, said all Cineworld/Picturehouse workers were leaving work without knowing if they were being offered redundancy or not; if there would be a job to walk back into; and if the cinemas would open again.

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Keith Musaman Morton outside the Ritzy

Keith Musaman Morton – a director who has been featured on the Blog for his film writing and directing – worked part-time at Clapham Picturehouse for nearly 20 years and saw his own films shown there.

He was moved enough to express his feelings about saying goodbye to his job and goodbye to the Ritzy down the road in Brixton where he lives.

“The Ritzy is my local,” he said. “It has shown some of my most favourite films.

“It has been known for its independent films, the staff are really cool, the events that happened there are really cool. It has been a central part of Brixton.

“My love of films was helped by the films I loved seeing there and is the main reason I worked for Picturehouse.”

“Let’s hope it is just a temporary shutdown, as it was in lockdown itself, until all is sorted, as I and many more Brixtonians will miss it too much.”

More on the Ritzy and its history …

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