When the building closed its doors to audiences for the last time in 2003, the new owners sought permission to convert it into a church.
Concerned about the loss of community access to the building, local groups like the McGufﬁn Film Society and Save Walthamstow Cinema led a passionate campaign to preserve its heritage and continued use for what it was famous for – entertainment. Without them and their decade-long campaign to keep the issue in the public eye, the building would have been lost.
In 2011 the Waltham Forest Cinema Trust was established to create a new vision for the venue’s future, in association with Soho Theatre. The campaign to save the building took on a new impetus and created quite a following – local residents, businesses and politicians added their voices and over 1,000 people attended the planning meetings.
Joining forces with Waltham Forest Council to demonstrate this vision and its viability, the church group’s application for change of use was unsuccessful, and the decision was upheld in a Public Inquiry in 2012/13. Proving the viability of the Granada as a theatre was a decisive factor in the inquiry, with the Council supporting the renovation and restoration of the building as part of the revitalisation of Walthamstow.
‘Finally… a new comedy-centric theatre opening in the old Granada Cinema next year. And what’s cooler than a theatre? Nothing, that’s what.’
In 2014 the building was sold to a pub chain and a small section of it reopened as Mirth, Marvel and Maud, allowing people to enjoy the incredible interiors of the foyer. During this time Soho Theatre and the Council worked closely on its longevity: architects, heritage consultants and funders consulted on how the building could fully reopen and have the sustainable future it deserved.
Following the publication of the economic impact study that showed a restored Granada run by Soho Theatre could add £34-52m to the local economy over a 10-year period (which has recently been revised in 2023 to as much as £62m) and building on the legacy of the Council’s achievement in being the first London Borough of Culture in 2019, the Council bought the building in 2019, committing £30m to the project and signing an agreement with Soho Theatre to run the venue.