Here’s a lovely picture of the Ritzy cinema by illustrator James Oses (you can click on it to see a bigger version). I’ve been meaning to write something about my current local for a while, so seeing this pop up on the Brixton Blog felt like as good a prompt as any. There are loads of great things about living here on the fag-end of the Victoria Line – but the Ritzy is right up there.
The fact that it has multiple screens is in itself a rarity for an arthouse cinema. It’s a big deal: when the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is on blanket release, most similarly inclined venues are forced to abandon their usual audience in the face of plain economic necessity. The Ritzy, meanwhile, is in the luxurious position of being able to milk the cash cow in one screen whilst offering an alternative in another. There’s always something interesting on.
The cinema opened in 1911 as the ‘Electric Pavilion’ and has appeared under various guises since, including the amusing ‘Little Bit Ritzy’, from which the present name is derived. Screen 1 is where you really feel the weight of history, with its intricate interior, all columns and carvings, and sheer cavernous size (apparently it used to seat 750). A sold out screening here, such as the Q&A for Attack the Block I attended a few weeks ago, is a proper event.
The real enjoyment, however, is to be had in Screen 5, hidden away next to the upstairs bar. All the Ritzy seats are comfortable, but these ones are more like thrones, and they recline. There are little ‘tables’ to put your drinks on next to each, and combined with the tiny capacity (no more than 40 I’d guess) you get the lovely feeling that you’re in your own living room – albeit with a massively upgraded TV.
Standing proudly opposite the town hall, next to the library, facing the junction between Brixton Road and Coldharbour Lane so as to display its film programme to the thousands who pass every day, you really feel as if this is a building that’s integral to the community. Recent upgrades have meant there’s now also a reasonably-priced cafe, with seated area spilling out onto Windrush Square, and an upstairs bar/music/comedy venue with bookings most nights of the week. It’s less a cinema than a local institution.
It’s currently celebrating its 100th anniversary, for which there are loads of special events and screenings going on. I’m not quite sure where this post is going, or how to end it (“How can I get out of this sentence?”) but yeah… I’m very grateful for the Ritzy. I’m in there all the time. If you find yourself nearby, you should pay a visit too.