Cinemagoers share unhappiness over deal for Curzon Cinemas to take over East Finchley’s Phoenix

Phoenix Cinema

Phoenix Cinema - Credit: Archant

Cinemagoers in East Finchley are united in their dismay at Curzon Cinemas taking over the historic independent Phoenix Cinema.

The news was announced last week by Curzon, who said they want to “maintain its iconic status as a focal point of the local community, build on the current programme and potentially invest in facilities there.”

One friend of the cinema said they should have been consulted over the move. Friends of the cinema get free tickets, discounts and access to special events for a one-off payment.

Jane Atkinson, who lives in Highgate, has been a regular viewer at the cinema. She said: “We absolutely should have been consulted. If it is for financial reasons, there has been no notices, or fundraising. It’s one thing putting on a brave face, but if they need money they need to come clean.”

The Phoenix opened in 1912 and is London’s oldest continuously-running cinema.

According to accounts registered with Companies House last year, the Phoenix Cinema Trust had lost £52,915 between 2016 and 2017.

Several people using the cinema ahead of a screening of The Wife this afternoon shared their unhappiness with the decision.

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“It’s a bit of a shame,” said Diana Ware. “I love this place. It is like sitting in your living room. We worry that they’re going to modernise and you’ll lose some of the character.

“They always show a really wide range of films, and I fear that wouldn’t happen any more. It’ll be a shame if it’s no longer independent.”

Susanna Fraser, from Islington, said she was aware of the work the cinema does with the community, including children and people with dementia.

Speaking to the Ham&High outside the cinema, she said: “I know people who come here regularly, and they like its independence. It’s one of the best known cinemas in London.”

Ms Atkinson, who said the cinema is on her commute home, says the cinema’s independence means she enjoys the “varieties of films they can show during the week. It is really a fabulous cinema and venue to come and watch film, and national theatre.”

Another filmgoer agreed it was a shame, and said she was concerned prices could rise and daytime matinee screenings which can sometimes attract ten customers could be axed.

The Save the Phoenix campaign group has raised concerns about changes to the programme of events, which Curzon has said they are committed to keeping.

However the cinema chain, which runs 12 cinemas across the UK said it was unable to guarentee jobs wouldn’t go. It met with staff yesterday, and said they would continue to “engage further as and when needed during the process”.

A spokesman for Curzon said: “This is a partnership between us and the Phoenix Cinema Trust. We are being asked to run the cinema on their behalf. We understand the concerns of the local community, but Curzon is not a big chain making a takeover. We are an independent cinema company with a very similar ethos and ideals to the Phoenix.”