Romaine Hart: Tributes as Screen on the Green founder dies aged 88

The Screen on the Green has put up a message in Romaine's honour

The Screen on the Green has put up a message in Romaine's honour - Credit: Andre Langlois

Tributes are being paid to a film pioneer who transformed Screen on the Green into “the coolest cinema in London”. 

Romaine Hart died on December 28 aged 88 after suffering a heart attack. 

Born in Streatham to a family of cinema owners, Romaine was well placed for life as a luminary exhibitor and distributor. 

Taking over the Rex on Upper Street, Romaine turned the “fleapit” cinema into Screen on the Green in 1970. She began with American arthouse films such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble of Hairspray from director John Water as well as screening David Lynch's debut feature Eraserhead. 

Screen on Green’s edgy style, clever and progressive programme contributed to the gentrification of the borough of Islington in the late 70s. Romaine reinvigorated the cinema culture in the UK, distributed films for big names and befriended countless others. 

Steven Spielberg was among those who loved her cinema and Quentin Tarantino described Screen on Green as “the coolest in London”.

Picturehouse chief Clare Binns, who was Romaine’s friend and mentee, said: “She transformed her cinemas and set a revolution in place which is still taking place today.

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“In film distribution she offered the very best of independent films and brought into the UK some of the most exciting films into cinemas around the UK.”

Romaine has been celebrated far and wide for her business acumen in a male-dominated industry, which has inspired generations of future film-makers and managers. 

The cinema was comprehensively refurbished and modernised in the 80s to plans by architect Fletcher Priest, adding a chic foyer space and velvet seats to the cinema. The cinema was typified by intimate auditoriums, ushers and specialised in must-see films.

Clare added: “She changed the face of independent cinema in the UK. Rather than taking an old-fashioned way of running cinemas, she realised that good customer experience, comfort, choice and fun were the name of the game.”

Romaine is survived by her daughters, Nicola and Zara, and grandchildren, Xander and Esme.

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