Mayfair is our jewel in the crown, our bastion of world cinema with the palatial Screen One with its 319 seats including two luxurious Royal Boxes and the intimate Screen Two, which seats 83. Celebrating 75 years in 2009, Mayfair is the heart of Curzon Cinemas with a rich cinematic history and a dedicated audience of film enthusiasts.
Curzon Mayfair, a Grade II listed building, is one of London’s oldest and most prestigious art house cinemas. Voted by Time Out readers as one of London’s top 20 cinemas, it has reflected the highest standards of independent and international art house film since it originally opened in 1934. The family-owned cinema has been instrumental in the progression of the British and international film industry. Curzon in Mayfair was one of the first cinemas to import and show foreign-language films in the UK, as a result of the release of Max Ophuls’ La Ronde. The cinema has also played host to many significant film premieres throughout its long history.
The birth of Curzon Cinemas occurred on 6th March 1934, when a modest building on Curzon Street, Mayfair, opened its doors for the first time, inviting audiences to Willi Forst’s biopic of Schubert, Unfinished Symphony. Built by The Marquese di Casa Maury and designed by architect Francis Lorne in a European style, the brick facade was low-rise and the only relief was a vertical white stone feature that had the name ‘Curzon’ mounted on it in green neon script. Inside, the 492-seat auditorium was provided on one level with a raised section containing luxury ‘club’ seats. In contrast to the picture palaces of the era, the Curzon Cinema had an austere interior, but with luxurious blue carpets and velveted armchairs.
In early September 1939, the cinema was closed for refurbishment, but due to the war it stayed closed and was taken over for army screenings. It was during this time that Harold Wingate acquired the lease and the cinema has remained in the family ever since. After the war, the Wingates became distributors of foreign-language films, bringing classics like The Bicycle Thieves and The 400 Blows to London audiences. Considered the elite art house cinema, the Curzon enjoyed many long runs, including in 1951-52, a 17-month engagement of Max Ophüls’ La Ronde, which was seen by over half a million patrons and reputedly caused the introduction of the X-certificate to the UK.
However, property prices in the area were ever increasing and the cinema was sitting on a prime location. Closed in 1963, it was demolished in 1964 to make way for an office block which would include a new cinema on the first floor. The new Curzon opened in April 1966 with Viva Maria and now boasted a larger 530-seat auditorium, a huge 43-foot by 20-foot screen and two Royal Boxes. In 2002, the rear stalls were converted into a second screen, offering a wider selection of films and now, with the development of satellite technology, Mayfair has become home to live transmissions from around the world, including opera from New York’s Met. Curzon Mayfair is also a Grade II Listed building and with a newly refurbished bar, remains one of the most luxurious treats for any cinephile.
Address: 38 Curzon St, London, W1J 7TY
Box Office: 0330 500 1331
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