I’d say the construction of Chiswick Cinema is in good hands. Mark Brown, project manager on behalf of Conamar Building Services, has been responsible for several theatre projects, including the modernisation of the Dominion theatre in Tottenham Court Rd., though perhaps the pinnacle of his career was to project manage the building of the 97 storey Infinity tower in Dubai (pun intended). When you’ve done that, and sat round a table with 36 Arab stakeholders, trying to keep up, with beginners Arabic, overseeing a project such as the construction of the Chiswick Cinema doesn’t seem quite so stressful.
There have been a few setbacks. Squatters held back the start of work earlier this year for several weeks. “They were very nice” says Mark, “even invited me in for a cup of coffee”. Chiswick Cinema took legal action and they were evicted.
From then on it’s been plain sailing. They’ve demolished the interior, keeping the front facade and one major wall. There’s still more demolition to do, but the next stage, having put in pilings and dug the drainage, will be to install the structural steel columns to support the upper floors.
Photographs: Project manager Mark Brown; looking down inside from the first floor gantry; the three levels where the main cinemas will be
There will be three cinema screening rooms seating around 100 people each, which will be roughly where the three areas of yellow brickwork are now (pictured). There will also be two smaller screens, one of them for hire as a private screening room seating 15 people, with a private dining space adjacent.
There’s nothing left of Ballet Rambert, which occupied the building for 40 years. They did find some broken crockery and a pile of teeth, says Mark. I must have looked slightly alarmed, as he hastened to assure me they didn’t belong to the squatters. More like a horse’s teeth he thinks, judging from the size (which still raises more questions than it answers!)
Images: As it looks now from the High Rd and as it will look on completion
The plan is to have a mezzanine area with seating and a wall of glass overlooking the High Rd. There will be bars and food areas and the whole building will be wheelchair accessible. The opening is currently on track for this time next year, though in the construction industry it’s always rash to be too precise.
The foundation memberships have now all been sold; the last few having gone on sale last week. There will be other types of membership – student membership and an annual membership, all to be confirmed some time next year.
“People are really interested in the project” says Mark. “They stop me and ask what we’re building, and the reaction is always very positive.” A film buff himself (he and his wife go regularly twice a week) he thinks the cinema will go very well in Chiswick. “When I say what we’re building, people say ‘that’s great, this is really what we need here.’ It seems like it’s a really tight community. People round here all seem to know each other and support each other.”
Good to hear. Roll on next November.
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: New cinema for Chiswick