Phoenix Cinema: ‘Cautiously optimistic’ chair of trustees eyes reopening date

PUBLISHED: 13:30 08 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:11 08 October 2020

The audience listens to chair of trustees James Kessler's presentation at the start of the meeting into the future of the Phoenix Cinema. Picture: Siorna Ashby

The audience listens to chair of trustees James Kessler's presentation at the start of the meeting into the future of the Phoenix Cinema. Picture: Siorna Ashby

@siornaphotography

The Phoenix Cinema is hoping to rise again and offer reduced audiences “something special” as it looks at how to reopen.

The Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley. Picture: Siorna AshbyThe Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley. Picture: Siorna Ashby

The independent cinema in East Finchley closed in March at the advent of lockdown. While some chains opened in July and August, the bosses and trustees at the Phoenix opted for a “watch and wait approach”.

Alison Gold, chair of the Phoenix Cinema Trust, said plans are afoot to welcome customers back, with details hopefully being announced later this month. With social distancing, the venue can only seat 80 of its usual 250-capacity audience.

“We are looking at an events led strategy,” she said. “We’ve got patrons including Michael Palin, and he has agreed very readily to do something with us. It’s fantastic when someone like that says straight away they will help.

“I feel very strongly that we do want to reopen and give people access to it again. It is a wonderful place. I feel determined that people must be allowed to come back before spring. We will do everything we can to offer something special over the next few months, especially when things look a bit bleak. We will offer something that is worth coming out for.”

The audience looks on as Dr Matthew Sweet interviews Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton on stage at a fundraiser for the Phoenix Cinema last weekend. Picture: Harry TaylorThe audience looks on as Dr Matthew Sweet interviews Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton on stage at a fundraiser for the Phoenix Cinema last weekend. Picture: Harry Taylor

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She told the Ham&High the Phoenix’s wary approach had been vindicated. She also thanked donors who backed the cinema financially over the last year.

“I think we didn’t lose anything by being quite cautious. We knew ‘this is going to be tough’, when we had to close. We didn’t know how long it was going to be closed for, certainly not until possibly spring.”

Cinema firms have been hard-hit by coronavirus. In the last week Cineworld announced it would temporarily close its venues, Everyman suffered a £11.7m pre-tax loss and a quarter of Odeons will only open at weekends. On Monday prime minister Boris Johnson urged film lovers to support cinemas.

According to Ms Gold, the Phoenix has made a claim from the Culture Recovery Fund, and while it has furloughed staff, there are no plans for redundancies once the scheme ends on October 31. The board of trustees has met more than 20 times this year as they monitor the impact of Covid-19.

“We’re keeping a close eye on the bank balance and making sure we are solvent. The running costs of keeping the building closed are low, and it’s great to see how a hundred-year old building is holding up.

“Obviously we’re not out of the woods, but I’m cautiously optimistic that with some short term support we can plan for the future.”


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