Miscommunication, Misunderstanding and Lack of Momentum Over Ealing Cinema

Empire's story isn’t over, but it’s finally looking promising writes Kuldeep Brar

Related Links

Is This The End Of Empire?

MP Keeps The Pressure on Empire

Time For Empire to 'Put Up or Get Out' of Ealing

Council Buy YMCA in Bid to Save Cinema Development - update

Ealing Cinema Latest - Empire Fully Committed


Sign up for our free newsletter

Comment on this story on the

An interesting thing happened today at today’s Oversight & Scrutiny meeting writes Kuldeep Brar.

Council leaders challenged Empire’s CEO Justin Ribbons on his lack of good faith in building the promised Ealing cinema.

The meeting opened as expected, with everyone sharing their frustrations on the drawn out saga of the derelict site sans promised cinema that lies at the heart of Ealing. But the agreement as regards to fault and responsibility for the delays didn’t sit squarely with anyone and a barrage of spears soon starting flying.

Planning delays this, technology demands that, failure to communicate and numerous smoke and mirror accusations on both sides.

It’s enough to make your heart sink. However, despite the fighting talk, there was hope of positivity. Amongst the shrapnel in no-mans-land in the battle to ‘out’ the real villain in this movie saga there emerged a glimmer of hope. Of love, dare I say.

Everyone, it seemed, all party Councillors, the public and Empire themselves, were united in one desire; to have the Ealing Cinema built and serving film lovers as soon as possible.
Rather than dissect specifics the main barriers on the part of Empire came down to two main things: Firstly; technology changes, specifically digital screens pushing the need for more screens and a rethink on space. Secondly; planning delays from ongoing changes some of which minor some major, that materially affect the build.

My verdict on who or what’s to blame is that it’s down to a relationship breakdown! Miscommunication, misunderstanding and lack of momentum possibly on both sides in resolving the issues in a constructive way.

Justin Ribbons was quite candid about some of the challenges, despite lacking full answers to some of delays. He described himself as a ‘Cinema man’ having invested almost £2m in the site as it lays bare, it was clear his feathers have also been ruffled by the delays and what he perceives to be misreporting in the press. To his credit, he acknowledged that temporarily tuning the site into a Car Park probably was not a good move in hindsight. He also was up-front with regards to the ex YMCA site – and the proposed plans that were put to him that included the building of flats which he rejected. I can understand his frustration that this would only confuse the issue, he’s not interested in building flats; he just wants to get on with the Cinema.

And the council’s position? Well they have a point, it can’t just be bad luck for this long; the original planning dates back to 2003. The endless planning changes and failed promises to start build suggests a lack of commitment and confidence on the part of Empire. Empire have been notoriously difficult to contact and haven’t been as clear as they could be. The alleged planning dispute over an additional 4 meters in height doesn’t make things easier. Instead, Empire may have been better off presenting a brand new application if there were so many changes. This would have enabled the public to also have visibility and be able to comment and may have saved all concerned precious time. But getting stuck in the detail is like wading through treacle.

I do sense Justin Robbins is sincere in his intentions. But I don’t think Empire have handled this process as well as they could have and likewise perhaps the council could have done more to respond to the planning challenges in a more constructive way – such as suggesting a new application rather than the water torture of ‘just one more change’ holding things up.

Empire’s failure is one of poor communication. Whether intentional or not, Ealing does feel messed around by the stalemate and broken promises.

I disagree with Justin’s position of wanting to keep business ‘behind closed doors’. The cinema is part of Ealing’s social infrastructure and people want answers. If Empire stays silent then their behaviour fuels the belief that their intentions aren’t honourable. It’s an own goal on the part of Empire not to engage with the ground swell of pro cinema support they have from the thousands who want to see the cinema built as soon as possible.

As my day job is that of Relationship Expert, my position with Justin Ribbons is quite candid. If you’re serious and genuine, then keep an open meaningful dialogue with us. I’ve had the same from the council and trust can only be built by open dialogue, engagement and action. Justin Ribbons has accepted and is amenable to a new relationship with Ealing. I’ll be meeting with him in late August to get his views and latest on when the cinema will be built.

No more battle ground, maybe now that we’ve cleared the air we can all rally round our mutual love of great cinema and look forward to popcorn at a screen near here very soon. I do love a happy ending, the story isn’t over, but it’s finally looking promising!

Kuldeep Brar

 Comment on this story on the forum

Bookmark and Share