West London is particularly blessed with some of the most iconic cinemas in the Capital. You have the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road (the UK’s oldest working cinema) and right by Notting Hill tube station are two really beautiful art house cinemas. The Gate and the Coronet. Out of the two Notting Hill cinemas, the Coronet is known for its bargain prices (Tuesday is cheapie day) and for actually appearing in the film Notting Hill. And it is cinema number three on my list – The historic Coronet in Notting Hill.
The Coronet also has one of the more unusual owners in British Cinema, and a little explanation has to come from the background of the area. Notting Hill is one of those few parts of London that exhibits something resembling a local community. In the 1960’s when the disgusting Ringways Plan was begun, it was the people of Notting Hill and the surrounding area, whose homes had been blighted by the building of the Westway were at the forefront of stopping London from being turned from the jumbled up city (a good link – click on it) that it currently is, into some sort of European version of Los Angeles. Of course it is home to the Notting Hill Carnival, an event that is now firmly a part of the London Calender but had to struggle against the annals of officialdom and persecution before becoming an accepted part of London today. In no small part thanks to the people of Notting Hill.
Sorry, I was meant to talk about a cinema. And yes, the Coronet, is part of that local activism. This grand picture house, formerly a theatre was slated to become a McDonalds at one point. This was in the bad days of the 1980’s and 1990’s when cinema attendances in the UK were at its lowest. But, that was the decade that Repertory Cinemas came into their own. If they survived this time, and the onslaught from general sloth, then they thrived. In the last 15 years, Repertory Cinemas have been at the forefront of the regeneration of London. As London stopped its post-war decline, the cinemas have followed that trend and the young (and now not-so-young) will come out to the cinema in their droves to watch some of the finest (and not so fine) films on offer from around the world. The Coronet has been one of those and its unusual ownership comes from the fact that it is owned by the local Pentacostal Church, the Kensington Temple. This again, goes back to the whole community aspect of Notting Hill. The local area is dominated by venerable institutions, of all shapes and sizes and affiliations. I do not know how Notting Hill has managed this, while other areas have not. But the Kensington Temple (along with other religious icons such as St Mary Abbots and Our Lady of Victories) are rooted in the local area. It is unusual, considering how secular the UK is, but then London has always bucked the trend that follows across the rest of the country.
So back to the cinema. Well, it is gorgeous. Two screens. There is the tiny Screen 2 located in the basement on the building, and then the grand Screen one, with all the original decorations and the grand circle and balconies that befit an old theatre, but are now a part of the cinema itself. And Screen one is stunning. If you are going to watch a film here, I hope it is in Screen one because it is one of those real cinema experiences that everyone must have at least once in their lives. The grandeur of another age with reasonable leg room.
The character in this cinema just oozes out and compared to a lot of the modern build cinemas (I am not mocking them but…) there is just no way to level the two. The Coronet is true Old Skool cinema, and at the prices it charges (especially on a Tuesday) you really cannot beat it. Plus, they usually have an excellent selection of films to boot. It cannot come recommended enough, and I am happy to recommend the Coronet to any film fan in this not-so-fair city of mine…