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Indie cinema review: Peckhamplex, London

A time capsule of a cinema, right down to the prices

Walking into the Peckhamplex is like stumbling headfirst into a mid-80s fever dream. Which is doubly impressive considering it didn’t open until 1994.

To the building’s credit, it does its best to warn you with its old-school white industrial panelling and uber-nostalgic listings board looming heroically over the entrance – but nothing can truly prepare you for what lies within: take heed all you rhodophobes for this is a land where pink reigns supreme as judge, jury, and executioner.

And no ordinary pink either, we’re talking about a shocking pink so thoroughly “out there” it gives the London 2012 logo a pang of shame. What we’re basically saying here is: the Peckhamplex is utter fabulousness in the most gaudy way possible. And you probably aren’t ready for it.

It’s a time capsule, a temporal abnormality where seemingly nothing has changed for 20+ years, from the shabby patterned carpet, to the too-small-for-modern-film-quads poster frames, to the timeworn red-fabric seating. Fortunately, the same can be said of its pricing, with tickets costing just £4.99 in a deal so thoroughly surprising it would’ve left us dazed if the décor hadn’t already done the job.

The popcorn is on the right side of stale, the carpets the right amount of sticky, the lights the right level of “oh, it’s quite dark in here isn’t it?”. If we didn’t know any better we could swear it’s all entirely intentional – a laser-focused adaptation of shabby-chic hipsterism where homelessness is fashionable. But it’s too innocent for anything so calculated.

Peckhamplex is testament to oxymoronic timelessness; so emphatically “of its time” that it’s become something bigger.

While we didn’t get to see the cinema’s main screen (inevitably cordoned off for the animated assault of Despicable Me 3) we went to see Baby Driver (great film, incidentally) shortly after its national release in what we can only assume was a mid-range screen. Sadly, the seating isn’t great – they’ve somehow managed to pack 6 screens into this place but that comes with inevitable sacrifices, the lack of verticality being one of them as seating rows line up with less of an incline and more of a gentle dip.

Even as a not-short person we couldn’t see the whole screen (though that owes a lot to the surprisingly voluminous hair of the man sat in the row in front) and we suspect it’s a set-up that could easily lead to considerable frustration for the smaller humans out there/if the resident giant who attends every screening (there’s always one) picks you as their victim for the day. Other than that, the picture and sound quality is perfectly good and at under a fiver you’d be hard pressed to find too much to complain about.

We love the Peckhamplex. Is it the “best” cinema in London? Not by a long shot – or at least not by any ordinary metric of quality. But its greatness comes in spite of that – it’s a relic in the purest, most wonderful form of the word.

Dated and shabby but damn well proud of that, it’s an endearing declaration of independent spirit and a giant (probably pink) middle-finger to the ubiquitous mediocrity of the big cinema chains that have spent years pushing London indies to the brink of extinction.

You rock, Peckhamplex – keep fighting the good fight.

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