Opening in March of this year, the ArtHouse in Crouch End rather loftily describes itself as ‘a dynamic new cultural venue that will tear down the perceived fourth wall between genres of art’. Pretentious language aside, the ArtHouse is a welcome addition to Crouch End’s cultural scene, with the added bonus that it’s a five minute walk from my front door.
And it’s not just a cinema. Housed in the former Salvation Army Hall on Tottenham Lane, the ArtHouse also hosts theatre, comedy and children’s events as well as boasting a cafe and bar – more of which later.
Turning the dream into reality wasn’t straightforward for the team behind the ArtHouse. As if opening a new cinema wasn’t daunting enough, partners George Georgiou and Sam Neophytou had to contend with an ‘amicable’ split from partners Curzon Cinemas just weeks before opening day. With hindsight, George views the split positively, and told me ‘The parting [of ways] with Curzon put us completely in the driving seat … we couldn’t rely on a known brand to get bums on seats … flexibility and our slight naivety seem to be what people are attracted to as it feels real.’
While authenticity is certainly attractive, for a self-confessed beer geek partial to enjoying a drink at the cinema it was the Meantime beers available at the bar that piqued my interest on a recent visit. London Lager, Pale Ale and Yakima Red were all present, and it was the latter I went for to accompany a showing of Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall. The film was disappointing but ironically the hops from Washington State made me less bitter, and what George had to say on the future of the drinks menu at the ArtHouse further improved my mood. ‘We plan to expand our range of beers using smaller breweries and promoting independents,’ he explained. Imagine the beery irony of enjoying a Gamma Ray while watching the latest installment in the Spiderman franchise. An unlikely prospect at this champion of independent cinema but I can always dream …
This virtuous stance of supporting small, independent producers is in-keeping with an ethical approach to business which is reflected in employee relations at the ArtHouse. George assured me that all full-time staff are paid the Living Wage, and there is zero tolerance of zero hour contracts – an example more established cinemas could learn from.
So all in all there’s much to like about the ArtHouse. And despite the prospect of a rival cinema opening nearby, it seems to have got too much right not to succeed. It won’t be easy, and it will rely on the support of the local community. But that flexibility George talked about isn’t an option for the chains, and if the beer list continues to grow the ArtHouse is assured of my regular custom – Spiderman or not.
Disclaimer: I’m not really that into Spiderman