Cinema in Ealing: Will the Tragedy Finally Return to Comedy?

26/10/2012 15:25 BST | Updated 25/12/2012 10:12 GMT

British film fans cherish Ealing in west London. The leafy suburb is home to the oldest film studio in the world - a studio that is still seeing active use today on many British movies and TV shows, such as Downton Abbey. The Red Lion pub across the road is affectionately known as Stage Six - a favourite watering hole for cast and crew after a hard day on set.

Though Ealing is best known for a run of classic post-war movies such as 'The Ladykillers' and 'Kind Hearts and Coronets', the studios remain active in movies as well as TV and it is the only British studio that has stage facilities as well as feature film production and distribution expertise.

But you can't go to watch an Ealing movie locally because Ealing doesn't have a cinema of its own.

Five years ago the local Empire was demolished to supposedly make way for a new improved multi-screen cinema that would bring twenty-first century cinema facilities to the town.

Locals waited, and waited, and waited some more as the building was demolished - except for the façade facing into the Uxbridge Road. Rumours swirled that Empire was going to turn the former cinema site into a car park because the economics of running a car park close to the busy Ealing Broadway train station would be more favourable than investing in a new cinema.

Empire always denied the car park rumours and vowed that a new cinema would be built and so the locals waited longer, until now.

Ealing Council declared yesterday that Empire has had long enough to develop the site and they will now instruct lawyers to apply for a compulsory purchase order.

Ealing Council leader, Councillor Julian Bell, said: "We have stated that we expect to see a construction contract in place to consider that work has commenced. No evidence of this has been provided by Empire and the site is as derelict now as it was in 2008 when they demolished the old cinema. We've been very patient with them but enough is enough."

The council claim that several major property developers have approached them with proposals aimed at turning the derelict site back into a cinema again and their own plans for the sale of the land would stipulate that any new development must include a cinema.

It's a tragedy that Ealing has no cinema of its own, as this is the neighbourhood of London that has created some of the most treasured British films. However this outcome could also be considered a triumph for many of the local residents who were instrumental in reaching this outcome.

Endless campaigning using social media by local residents such as Kuldeep Brar has not only forced Empire to continue defending their own position, but has also ensured that the Council has finally taken tough action.

I used to live in Ealing myself. I know that there is a strong cohesive community in this part of London and any smart developer would be wise to take this into account. Surely it's possible to make money on a new cinema that includes the local community in activities such as programming features? If another cinema chain has yet to try it, perhaps Ealing can now take a lead...