Posted July 2022. Adam Yamey is a retired dentist and an active author whose book, Beneath a Wide Sky: Hampstead and its Environs was published in 2022.
It was at the Everyman that I went to the cinema for the first time in my life. My parents, who were not regular cinemagoers, decided that the rather sad French film, The Red Balloon (first released in the UK in late 1956), was a suitable production to introduce me, a four-and-a-half-year-old, to the joys of cinema. My parents, who tended to avoid popular culture, probably selected the Red Balloon, an arty French film, because it was a little more recherché than the much more popular Disney films that appeared in the late 1950s. The cinema, which still exists, was, according to Christopher Wade, built in 1888 as a drill hall for The Hampstead Rifle Volunteers. Then, in 1919 its windows were bricked-in, and it became MacDermott’s Everyman Theatre. In 1933, it became a cinema. I saw many more films there in my childhood and adolescence. Every year, there used to be a festival of Marx Brothers films in the summer months. I loved these films and used to visit the Everyman on hot sunny afternoons when I was often the only person in the auditorium. In those days, the cinema’s auditorium had a strange smell that strongly resembled household gas. Indeed, there were gas lamps attached to the walls of the auditorium, but I am certain that I never saw them working. They might have there for use as emergency lighting in case there was an electricity supply failure. These were quite frequent during my childhood but never happened when I was at the Everyman.
The cinema is, I have been told, now a very luxurious place. The seats are comfortable and have tables beside them, at which waiting staff serve food and drinks. This is a far cry from what I can remember of the rather basic cinema in the 1960s. Back in those days, the Everyman, like the now long-gone Academy cinemas in Oxford Street, favoured screenings of ‘arty’ films rather than the more popular films that most cinemas showed. Now, the Everyman, formerly an art-house cinema, thrives by screening films that are most likely to attract full houses. That this is the case is yet more evidence to support the idea that Hampstead is not what it was. Many of the sort of people who might enjoy arty films that attract often small niche audiences, who used to live in Hampstead, can no longer afford to reside in the area.