Campaigners are urging a historic cinema not to sell land nearby as it seeks to build another screen.

The Phoenix in East Finchley, which was built in 1910, had hoped to expand and open a second screen after a small piece of land was acquired 40 years ago.

However the Phoenix Cinema Trust, which runs the venue, has now decided expansion would not be a viable option and has instructed estate agent Martyn Gerrard to sell the plot.

Nearly 350 people have signed a petition to stop the “quick sale” of the land, with petitioners asking that the trust considers “the implications and wider opportunities” of the land.

The petition reads: “This will curtail the cinema's ability to take a more visionary approach.  As plans now stand, the trustees will have neither control of what is built directly adjacent to the cinema building, nor the implications for local residents and the community.”

According to the listing of the site, an offer has been made which the seller has accepted.

Ham & High: The section highlighted with a yellow tint is the land being soldThe section highlighted with a yellow tint is the land being sold (Image: Google Maps)

Nevertheless, the Phoenix Cinema Trust is adamant that selling the land was the right move and that a smaller second screen can still go ahead in the main building.

In an email to friends and supporters, the trust said: “Despite the Phoenix having a long-running goal of a second screen and despite many architects and experts looking at the land over the years, nobody has come up with a feasible way of linking a building on it to the main cinema.

“If the Phoenix built a second screen on the land, it would need a second ‘front of house’ and the extra staffing for this would cancel out any extra revenue from this screen. So it has never been seen as viable.

“Instead we have got planning permission for a small second screen within the main building in the former café area.

“This is fully costed, will help provide the flexibility needed to support and we think it is key to the sustainability of the Phoenix going forwards. It will provide a new community resource which we would love to offer.”

The trust has claimed that the Phoenix has suffered a “double whammy” of higher costs and low audiences, saying admissions are still down 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Selling the land became a decision to help the cinema financially.

It continued: “While we are aware that the sale is a one-off move, there is no purpose to retaining it and it is clearly best to realise its value before it is too late to use the proceeds.

“We will invest the money in creating a second screen and bringing the main auditorium up to audience expectations, particularly with new comfortable seating.

“We are already preparing to raise extra funds to support the proceeds of the land sale and will be pleased if Phoenix Friends and supporters can get involved in this too in a few months’ time.”