For any film lover, is there any better feeling than a shiny new independent cinema opening in your neighbourhood?

Arthouse Crouch End

Arthouse Crouch End

Everyone has been raving about the Olympic Studios in Barnes, now it’s our turn in North London.

I finally had time yesterday to make a trek to the new Arthouse Crouch End, just a few minutes walk from my doorstep in the former Music Palace (aka Salvation Army Hall) building. After a few delays, it opened on March 21; the wait was worth it for this area’s only cinema. It’s a gorgeous space, with a cool cafe at the entrance with a well stocked bar, and gourmet provisions like smoked salmon bagels, Portuguese custard tarts, polenta cakes, and sausage rolls. (If that sounds too fancy, popcorn prices started, miraculously, at just £1.25. That’s what I call neighborhood friendly.)

Funky music was playing in the foyer and the auditorium before the Pearl & Dean reel started. The walls were adorned with curated original artworks. And there was also a display of striking photographs chronicling the renovation of the building.

The cinema itself, which seats 80, had the best of both worlds — high-end digital technology (including Dolby surround sound) paired with rows of vintage red cinema seats. A second, 90-seat cinema will open in coming days.

In addition to independent features, the programming will include short film nights (starting tomorrow) from Braine Hownd; event cinema offerings such as opera and theatre, babes-in-arms screenings for parents; a kids club for younger viewers (including some screenings that are autism-friendly); sensory impaired screenings and special showings for over-60s.

There are also plans to host live performances such as music, comedy and theatre in the space. Veteran writer and programmer Nick Walker, who is known for his salons at the ICA, is spearheading the film programme.

The group that runs Arthouse parted ways with partner Curzon about a month before the cinema opened; let’s hope this independent group can make a success of it — it’s certainly a community that could take full advantage of a venue like this. “The ArtHouse hopes to re-invent the way people go to see Art of all forms by mixing cinema with live performances with Art exhibitions and thus creating a cultural hub and a great social scene,” says co-founder George Georgiou.

The only drawback to my first visit? I was so transfixed and transported by Under The Skin that I very nearly stumbled into traffic on my way outside. Would have been highly embarrassing to be run over on my own high street.

More info here.