Walthamstow’s EMD cinema has now relaunched as Mirth, Marvel and Maud, with the site now set to play host to a line-up of both live entertainment and cinema screenings before the end of the year.

However, the venue has had a long, and at many times troubled past. Tom Barnes takes a look at the history of the iconic Hoe Street cinema. 

Public entertainment was first brought to cinema site in Hoe Street in 1887, when the Victoria Music Hall opened.

For 20 years, the music hall was a space where Walthamstow residents could enjoy dances, concerts and plays.

However, things changed at the turn of the Twentieth Century, when moving pictures became the new form of popular entertainment.

The first film was screened at the Victoria in 1896 and the building was converted to become the area’s first dedicated cinema 11 years later in 1907.

In 1930, the site was completely redeveloped and the Grade II* listed building which stands today was constructed.

Media mogul Sidney Bernstein opened the Granada cinema at the site, including a gigantic 2,700 seat cinema screen, one of the chain’s largest.

One of the most popular features of the cinema was its interiors, decorated with extravagant Baroque and Moorish designs.

The cinema became an important part of the community and may have contributed more to British cinema than most would imagine.

It is believed that the site was a favourite spot of a young Alfred Hitchcock, who was born and grew up nearby in Leytonstone.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Granada operated as a “cine-variety” destination, screening films and also hosting live entertainment.

During this time, some of the biggest names in the music world graced the cinema’s stage, including The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Little Richard and Roy Orbison.

In 1968, the stalls area at the bottom of the cinema was closed, but film-lovers could continue watching movies from the hall’s upper balcony.

The last live show at the Granada took place in 1973, before the hall was divided to create two smaller screens. 

Between 1989 and 2000, the cinema changed ownership several times, being bought by Cannon cinemas, Virgin and ABC, before it was purchased by Odeon.

Less than a year after Odeon took on the cinema, it was sold to businessman Mohan Sharma and rebranded as an EMD Cinema.

A clause in the sale of the site prevented films in the English language being screened at the cinema, leading to a campaign against the decision.

Odeon relented to public pressure the following year and allowed English language screenings to take place.

However, the building was closed in 2003 and bought by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, which planned to turn the site into a church.

The plans led to more than 10 years of legal wrangling over the future of the cinema, with the church seeing three separate planning applications rejected by Waltham Forest council. 

The building soon fell into decay, as it stood dormant for more than a decade.

Finally, last year, pub chain Antic agreed a deal to buy the cinema and has renovated the space, renaming it as Mirth, Marvel and Maud.

The restoration work means Waltham Forest residents will soon be able to once again see a film or watch a show at the historic building.