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The Ritzy is a cinema in Brixton, London, England. It is a Grade II listed building.[1] It is managed by Picturehouse Cinemas, who were bought by Cineworld in 2012.

Ritzy Picturehouse
The Ritzy
Former namesThe Electric Pavilion, The Pullman Cinema
AddressBrixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London SW2 1JG
Coordinates51°27′41″N 0°06′53″W / 51.4613°N 0.1148°W / 51.4613; -0.1148Coordinates: 51°27′41″N 0°06′53″W / 51.4613°N 0.1148°W / 51.4613; -0.1148
OperatorPicturehouse Cinemas
Opened1911 (1911)
ArchitectE. C. Homer and Lucas
BuilderIsrael Davis

The cinema opened on 11 March 1911 as "the Electric Pavilion". It was built by E.C. Homer and Lucas for Israel Davis, one of a noted family of cinema developers, and was one of England's earliest purpose-built cinemas, seating over 750 seats in the single auditorium. Like many cinemas of the period, it was fitted with an organ. It was seen as a 'scruffy relation' to the nearby Palladium, and was known as the 'flea pit'. Sound films began showing in 1929.[2]

The neighbouring Brixton Theatre was completely destroyed by bombing in 1940, which allowed the Ritzy to expand into the vacant space.[3]

In 1954, it was renovated by noted cinema architect George Coles, who installed CinemaScope: the cinema was renamed "the Pullman" and the organ was removed. It was later renamed "the Classic", before closure in 1976. After this, it was re-invented as "The Little Bit Ritzy", run in collaboration with London Cinema Collective.[4] A collaboration between Lambeth Council and the management of the time ensured the cinema's survival, with the facade being rebuilt and restored to near-original condition.[citation needed]

During the 1980s, the cinema developed a reputation as having a left-wing agenda, so much so that the incumbent manager was motivated to place an advert in the local press advising potential patrons that not every film that the cinema screened was "left-wing or gay".[5]

Today, the cinema is owned by Picturehouse Cinemas, and operates as a multi-screen complex with bar and café facilities. Its official name is now "Ritzy Picturehouse" although it is still commonly known as the Ritzy Cinema. In 1999, Albion Ventures invested £8million in Picturehouse to help fund the development of several of their cinemas, including the Ritzy.

In 2009, the decor and colour scheme was restored from its original style and a live music venue was added, called Upstairs.

Living wage disputeEdit

There has been an ongoing labour dispute from Ritzy Cinema Workers since 2007, when staff were paid £5.35 per hour[6]. City Screen, which then owned Picturehouse Cinemas since 2003, refused to recognise the BECTU union and set up an alternative called 'The Forum'. After a court case, BECTU was recognised and negotiations began in 2004.[7]

The dispute re-emerged in 2014 over the payment of the London Living Wage. Picturehouse has stated that "we cannot predict the future levels of the London Living Wage and we cannot build a business plan around a rate that is not within our ability to forecast."[8]

Picturehouse says that it pays its staff a 'fair wage' of £9.10 per hour, compared to the voluntary London Living Wage of £10.20. Strike action by staff continued in 2017 following the sacking of representatives of the BECTU union which represents cinema workers.[9] Public figures such as Sir Ian McKellen, Ken Loach, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Garfield and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have publicly supported the campaign.[10] Sacked staff representatives whose cases were heard at employment tribunal were unanimously found to be unfairly dismissed by the company, citing a 'lack of neutrality at the investigation and disciplinary stages'.[11]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Ritzy Cinema (1249916)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  2. ^ "From Electric Pavilion to the Little Bit Ritzy: The story of a legendary landmark". Brixton Blog. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  3. ^ "Cinefile: The Ritzy Cinema's Centenary". Londonist. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  4. ^ "Keeping up with Pop Ritzy | Pop Brixton". Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  5. ^ Adam Lusher (19 March 2014). "Nudge, nudge: Python supports ushers striking for the living wage". The Independent. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Ritzy Cinema staff strike against poverty pay. – UK Indymedia". Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  7. ^ "2004 Staff Forum or Trade Union?". Picturehouse Workers' Blog. 16 July 2017. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Cinema staff go on strike over pay". BBC News. 22 June 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  9. ^ Boycott-Owen, Mason (23 September 2017). "Brixton's Ritzy cinema workers to strike as pay row enters second year". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Brixton cinema staff continue strike action as threat of sack looms – South West Londoner". South West Londoner. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  11. ^ "Tribunal finds that Ritzy reps were unfairly dismissed - BECTU". Retrieved 13 October 2018.

External linksEdit