It’s hard not to love Genesis, our local independent cinema on Mile End Road, and we are their number one fan. Completely renovated in 2013, Genesis is not just an award winning cinema, but also a much loved creative hub for the community.
Why Genesis is the Best Cinema in the UK
Genesis has consistently beaten off the competition in national awards. It won Best UK Cinema in the Under 24 Screens category at the in 2016, and was shortlisted three times in other years.
It reliably features all the blockbusters as well as a regular programme of cult classics, re-screening old performances and live streaming shows such as Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein.
Cinema showings at Genesis are far more affordable than many of the big corporate cinemas, with a standard showing on a Sunday to Wednesday coming in at just a fiver, and remaining under ten pounds at the weekend. Screenings in the luxe Studio 5 are a little more pricey, but who cares when they are so comfortable? Not us.
Genesis offers five screens, including the theatrical Screen 1 that can seat 550 people and retains original architectural features. Genesis was the first commercial cinema t use an immersive cinema lighting system that uses LED panels to create ambient light in the auditorium, reflecting the mood of the scene playing on screen.
As well as some of the best screens in the East End, including two luxury studios where customers can recline in comfy sofas and armchairs with blankets and Ottoman foot-rests, Genesis does food really well too.
The Kitchen offers Pieminster pies, bangers and mash and Kray-themed pizza slices, while the Grindhouse Cafe serves sandwiches, Nude coffee and delicious Cro-doughs (croissant doughnut hybrids) from the East End’s famous Rinkoff Bakery. If you want something a little stronger to enjoy your film with, the upstairs Bar Paragon offers beer, wine and classic cocktails as well as their signature drink, the Paragon Martini.
As well as hosting events that include the entire site, such as the East End Film Festival, that was launched to support film makers in the East End, Bar Paragon also plays host to a selection of smaller, regular creative and community events from three round poetry slam to swing classes.
History of Genesis cinema
The site has been used for entertainment purposes since the mid-19th century. The first building on the site was a pub that opened in 1848 and then turned into a music hall. After that building was destroyed by fire in 1884, the owners hired architect Frank Matcham to design a replacement theatre that opened in 1885 under the name Paragon Theatre of Varieties.
Matcham’s revolutionary design of the building helped make him one of London’s most popular architect of the time and he was commissioned to build many more theatres in the capital. The theatre welcomed many stars on its stage including Laurel and Hardy, and Charlie Chaplin just before he left for Hollywood.
The building has been used as a cinema since 1912, though it has changed hands and names many times. It eventually closed down in 1989 and fell into disrepair until current owner Tyrone Walker-Hebborn revived the derelict cinema and gave it its fitting name: Genesis. Tyrone went on to start the East End Film Festival in 2000.
Genesis was one of ‘the’ places to be seen in the East End. In 1963 there was the royal premiere of the film Sparrows Can’t Sing here, starring Barbara Windsor. Princess Margaret was supposed to be at that premiere, but because she knew the Kray twins were going to be there, she wasn’t allowed to go. Instead, her husband, photographer Lord Snowdon came as the official royal representative.
At the time, the Kray twins had a pub down the road in Bow called the Kit Kat Club and after the premiere everybody went there for the after-party. After the premiere, it turned out that Princess Margaret had been there all the time having a good time with the Kray twins, getting Brahms and Liszt.
There used to be 33 cinemas in Tower Hamlets, and seven cinemas just in the Bow and Mile End area. Over time, they were all turned into bingo halls or knocked down to make place for residential buildings. In 1989, Genesis was the last cinema to close down. It was derelict until current owner Tyrone Walker-Hebborn purchased the building and decided to build Genesis.
Find Genesis at 93-95 Mile End Rd, E1 4UJ
Read our exclusive interview with Genesis’s owner, Tyrone Walker-Hebborn, here.
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