Stars line up to save cinema from evangelicals' wholesome movies

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The Independent Culture

Joseph Fiennes, one of Britain's most bankable Hollywood stars, has launched a broadside at evangelical Christians who have taken over his local cinema.

Joseph Fiennes, one of Britain's most bankable Hollywood stars, has launched a broadside at evangelical Christians who have taken over his local cinema.

Fiennes, who has played Christ on stage, heads a galaxy of famous residents, promising to save the Coronet in fashionable Notting Hill, west London. Mariella Frostrup, former X-Files actress Gillian Anderson, and film-maker Bernardo Bertolucci have signed up to the campaign.

A radical evangelical church, the Elim Pentecostal, purchased the Coronet cinema last month for £3m and is now planning to show "wholesome films for family viewing". It will also be used as a theatre and a place of worship. Alongside the Hollywood blockbuster Troy and the latest disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow, the new Coronet's first programme will include The Passion of the Christ and Man Dancing, a modern-day take on the story of Christ that was panned by the critics.

But its celebrity audience fears the cinema could eventually stop showing films for good. The church's website declares its aim is "to redeem the arts through Christian discipleship", a statement dismissed by Fiennes as "ridiculous".

"It's not what the arts are about," he said. "To redeem the arts through films like The Passion of the Christ smacks of fundamentalism and with the current world political position we don't need that."

His view was echoed by fellow actor Tom Hollander. "It's offensive - the arts don't require redemption," said the star of Gosford Park and the BBC's Cambridge Spies. "The arts exists within a morally complicated zone, unlike an evangelical church which is morally infantile."

Ms Anderson, who has lived in Notting Hill for the past two years, said: "It would be a crying shame if the community lost their local cinema. I have absolutely nothing against churches, but this is a beautiful landmark building."

It is not the first time that an independent cinema in London has been taken over by a radical church. The 1,800-seat Rainbow cinema in Finsbury Park, which once also hosted gigs by Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, was sold to the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which has turned it into its UK headquarters and no longer uses it to show films.

Waltham Forest council last year refused the same group planning permission for a church at a cinema frequented by the young Alfred Hitchcock, because it would have left residents without a cinema.

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