Going to the cinema is not just about the film, it is, or should be, a total cinematic experience and for me, there is a special place in London where you can find just that – The Phoenix Cinema in north London. East Finchley, N2 to be exact.
As you sink into your maroon upholstered chair and the lights dim, around you is
the history of cinema going in this
[O]pened in 1911 as the Premier Electric Theatre having been built in 1910, the Phoenix is one of the nation’s oldest cinemas. The vaulted ceiling was built with live orchestras for silent films in mind and now it provides perfect acoustics for special events with live music or Q&As. The auditorium was originally the other way around but in the 1930s and by now known as The Coliseum, the projection box was moved to the High Road end, the lovely art deco frontage was added, the wonderful Mollo and Eagen gold reliefs were installed alongside the aisles and an enhanced ‘rake’ was put in place. That means, even today, if someone with ‘big hair’ sits in front of you, you can still see the screen!
The name was changed again, this time to The Rex. Under Charles and Kitty Cooper in 1975, it became The Phoenix and programmed the best of world cinema. Under threat of property development in the mid 1980s, public support refused to let the Phoenix go and it became a charitable trust devoted to showing the best of independent films and to reach out to the local community and beyond. This gem of a building is still doing what it was built to do over one hundred years ago.
There is a lovely cafe too, famous for its excellent home baked cakes. Visit and enjoy! The Phoenix Cinema, High Road, East Finchley, London N2. Nearest tube: East Finchley
This is a Guest Post from prize-winning Blue Badge Guide and author of Jewish London Rachel Kolsky. With Go London Tours she leads guided walks throughout the year focussing on the ‘human stories behind the buildings’. Rachel is a Trustee of The Phoenix and previous Grillee.
Picture: Phoenix auditorium ©Maurita Van Droogenbroek