Last picture show for Camden: Less than a year after the closure of the Parkway cinema, the Plaza is under threat

Camden Town is to lose a second cinema months after the closure of the Parkway despite strong local opposition.

The company which owns the Plaza cinema, Bernard Sunley, has told the venue's management that their 20-year lease will not be renewed when it expires in September. Sunley also own the nearby Parkway, which closed last August after a long-running campaign to save the art deco-style auditorium.

Both cinemas are among a number of buildings near Camden Town Tube station which Sunley hope to sell for several million pounds. Although last year plans to build a seven storey shopping and leisure complex on the site were refused, the area has been marked out by Camden Council as suitable for redevelopment.

Andy Engel, director of Artifical Eye, who run the 340-seat Plaza, said Sunley had refused to renew the lease unless the rent was tripled to pounds 100,000. He accused the landlord of forcing the cinema to close even though no replacement tenant has been confirmed. 'It looks as if Camden Town will have no cinemas after September, which will be a great loss for the whole of North London,' he said. 'We had hoped that the landlords would let us stay until they had a tenant, but they say they want us out.

'That means the place will fall into disrepair, and maybe that's what they want. If the place is a ruin they can say to the council, 'let's pull it down'.'

Mr Engel said the single-screen Plaza had always traded in the black under his company's management. Artificial Eye also run the Lumiere, Renoir, and Chelsea cinemas.

Paul Gill, a director of Sunley, said he was in negotiations with a number of prospective buyers, and that a deal could be finalised within weeks.

He said the Plaza's lease would not be renewed as to do so could jeopardise a potential sale, and that the cinema's subsequent fate would be a matter for its new owners.

The Plaza is built on the site of a former dairy and dates from 1909, making it London's oldest cinema. It has built up a strong reputation as an arthouse venue, with recent screenings including The Age Of Innocence, Manhattan Murder Mystery and Little Buddha.

With its closure Camden-based film fans' nearest cinemas will be the Screen on the Hill at Belsize Park, Screen on the Green at Islington or Odeon Swiss Cottage.

Camden councillor Gerry Harrison, who was one of the leading figures in the fight to save the Parkway from closure, said: 'At a time when film audiences are increasing it seems particularly sad that another cinema is closing.

(Photograph omitted)

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