The Phoenix Cinema

London's oldest purpose-built cinema not to mention one of the prettiest. It's now owned by a charitable trust dedicated to protecting its heritage and bringing film culture and history to the local community

Truly a London institution, but one that gets surprisingly little attention… perhaps due to its suburban Finchley location, away from London’s more well-known cultural hubs. Built in 1910 and finally opening two years later, The Phoenix is Britain’s oldest purpose-built cinema and its fascinating history is well worth a quick read. It’s now under the stewardship of a charitable trust dedicated to not only keeping grubby-handed property developers’ away from the historic venue, but also to improving access to film for the local community. A single screen affair with a stunning interior, catching a film at the Phoenix feels like you’ve gone back in time to a different era. There’s also a gallery and a great little cafĂ©, which opens every day and sources its produce from independent stores.


The Impact

Being owned by a charitable trust, the profits from running the Phoenix go towards protecting this historic venue as well as funding all kinds of educational activities for residents. These include ÂŁ1 educational screenings for school pupils, kids toddler and todler clubs and a very generous under-26 discounted membership. For the area’s older residents, there’s also a great programme called Cinememories – dementia friendly screenings supported by an Advisor from the Alzheimer’s Society, which are free to over 60s and two friends, family members or carers.

The Phoenix also has an ethical policy and committment to accessibility for disabled people. For more details about accessibility, click here.

Here’s what they said

Beneath the vaulted ceiling which dates back to 1910, the history of film has been shared with millions of audience members. From silent films with live music through two world wars when newsreels were the only source of moving images that captured events overseas; from the clicking reels of 24 frames a second to the digital projection of today, the Phoenix has witnessed it all.

Saved from the wrecker’s ball by the formation of the Phoenix Cinema Trust in 1985 and run for the community ever since, it is a wholly independent, single-screen cinema showing the latest independent and foreign films and reinvesting its profits in education work and maintaining this historic building. To find out more, take a look at  this film celebrating the Phoenix’s centenary in 2010:


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