Set back from the action of the High Street in Peckham sits the jewel in the crown of South London, the concrete fortress known as the Plex.

As one of the few remaining independent multiplex cinemas in the country, the Peckham Plex functions as the symbolic centre-point of a community that continues to prioritise local business enterprise over the allure of chain stores and cut and past high street clones. With six screens, cheap tickets and an integrated car park, the Plex offers everything the modern cinema goer has come to expect, all wrapped up within a unique atmosphere and inimatble visitor experience. Whilst the Plex easily caters for the demands of contemporary cinema audiences, it has nonetheless effortlessly retained the personal touch that has long since abandoned today’s sterilised corporate movie dromes, and through this its team have built a flagship centre that reflects both the diversity and spirit of the area.
The programme at its core caters for the nuts and bolts cinema crowd offering a solid diet of American action, comedies and kids flicks, with the likelihood being that at the time of your visit there will be a picture that precisely fits your mood and sentiment. From personal experience the Plex has always been a reliable local source of muscular Hollywood thrillers with memorable encounters with the Dark KnightInception and both Tony Scott runaway train sagas Unstoppable and Pelham 123 all being somehow enriched by the security of having avoided the West End’s global leisure marketplace. In an age when the cinematic experience is being engineered as the last stand against piracy, and 3D and IMAX productions are touted as the definitive moving image encounter, the Plex somehow creates and equivocal and intangible counterpoint to these consumer speculations. It is simply a cinema that you visit because it inexplicably completes the film itself, a cinema not of spectacle but of experience.

The Hollowman

The Hollowman, outdoor film screening by Sohrab Golsorkhi and Dean Kissick as part of the Great British Art Debate at Peckham Plex, 2010 

It is also to the Plex’s credit that, beyond its core programme, it has always looked to accommodate events and screenings that reflect new ideas and the independent spirit of cinema. Such events have included a series of films hosted for Black History Month, collaborations with New York B-movie vanguards Troma and a screening of Chris Petit’s legendary dark ambient Brit masterpiece Radio On presented as part of the 2009 Tate Triennial. It is this accommodating approach that makes the Plex and exceptional resource to the people of the area and a beacon for independence within the mainstream cultural sector.
Today it is certainly a time of change in the area, as prospecting gallerists setup shop and wayward art students drift in from the adjacent colleges seeking a new Eden. Unarguably Peckham itself has become a place of multiple narratives with the local communities and the newly arrived art scenesters often barely interacting. However, it is within these conditions that the spirit of the Plex seems to perhaps make the most sense. A place of no restrictions, no cliques and no false prophecies: just simply entertainment for all; an Eden, that just for £3.99, is yours.

Upcoming at Peckham Plex: Consume Peckham: Take 16 comprises sixteen short documentary films of local businesses made by students from Chelsea College of Art and Design. From bread production to international shipping logistics; from bespoke fashions to the ever-busy greengrocer; Consume Peckham: Take 16 provides a snapshot of the varied and occasionally bizarre cultural mix that is to be found in South London’s most infamous postcode. Screening at 7pm, 24th January 2011.
Paul Purgas

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