Friday, October 21, 2005

Gods of the silver screen

Good regeneration story in the Economist on new uses for old buildings - in particular, churches becoming flats, libraries, pubs, beauty salons or climbing centres; and cinemas (not least those secular cathedrals built in the moviehouse boom of the 1930s) becoming, what else, churches -

Some of the people who run the churches even think that the exotic architecture of the old cinemas helps to attract new recruits, and are prepared to spend a lot of money restoring them. “When a person comes in for the very first time, the looks of the church break the ice,” says Pastor Paul Hill of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in Finsbury Park. The church has been busily restoring the cinema's intricate interior, which was designed to give the feel of sitting under the stars in a Spanish village. “When they realise the beauty of the building and its lack of connection with religion, they feel good about it,” says Mr Hill.

The future of such Yorkshire landmarks as Sheffield's Abbeydale Picture House and Bradford's New Victoria (better known now as the old Odeon) remains in doubt, sadly. A local lobby group is trying to preserve the former as a community centre, while the latter is facing demolition as part of the city centre regeneration programme. They are worth saving, I reckon.

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