Published on February 11, 2014 | by Caroline Schmitt

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West End to lose one of its oldest cinemas

outside the Odeon cinema on leicester square

Many disagree with the plans to destroy the historic building. [Linwei Li]

The UAL film community emphasised the significance of independent film-making on Monday (February 10), after Westminster City Council announced that the West End Odeon cinema in Leicester Square will be knocked down next month.

The iconic building, which opened in 1930, will be replaced with a ten-storey block facilitated by the Edwardian group, owner of the Radisson Blu Edwardian chain, which will hold a hotel, spa and a two-screen cinema. The development aims to bring a “renewed vibrancy” to London’s West End

Michaela Stasova, a FdA Media Practice student at LCC, said: “They are doing the wrong thing in destroying such a historic building. There are already enough hotels in London.”

An alternative to chains with a strong focus on commercial success, are independent cinemas which support creative film-making. This June Stasova’s course will have its graduation film screening at the Prince Charles Cinema, the West End’s only independent cinema, located directly across Leicester Square from the Odeon.

The film will be created by a group of LCC student producers, writers and a camera team, who will fly out to Norway in March to shoot an eight-minute film on a £3000 budget.

“The film is about a young narcissist who drives through the mainland when his car breaks down. He decides to go hitch-hiking and when one car finally stops, the viewer realises that the protagonist and all other drivers really are mannequins and everything becomes a little surreal from there,” said Stasova.

Experimental 

Polly Nash, BA Film Practice course leader at LCC, criticised the Odeon’s redevelopment and lack of emphasis on experimental films in chain cinemas: “One of my favourite cinemas has 60 seats and all they show are international productions a year after their release. You’d never see these great Argentinian films in an Odeon anyway.”

Inside the Odeon West End

Independent cinemas are an alternative to the bigger commercial names. [Linwei Li]

Jonny Elwyn, an independent film editor with a degree in film and TV production from Westminster, goes one step further by envisioning the future of film in a new business strategy: “The old business model for cinema is dying out. Cinemas need to become more like open mics or comedy stores; you sign up for an evening of entertainment, you get shown some great young filmmaking talent, possibly a few short films, some funny ads, a low budget feature and the filmmakers bring in their ‘fans’ to fill the seats,” suggested Elwyn.

 

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