The cinema will commemorate a century of uninterrupted service operating out of the same iconic building on Walton Street.
The occasion will be marked with a programme of contemporary classic films, running until the end of 2013, as well as a season of films set or shot in Oxford. There will also be an exhibition detailing the cinema’s history on display in the cinema’s bar. The celebrations will kick off on 15th March, with a late-night, fancy dress showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show the following Saturday.
Acting manager Stuart Jarvis explained why the Phoenix was choosing to celebrate its centenary: “There aren’t many cinemas in the country that are 100 years old – we wanted to mark the anniversary in this way to celebrate that.”
Jarvis is keen to get students involved with the Phoenix’s centenary: “We’re a very student-friendly cinema. Not only do we offer discounts and free screenings in our Slacker’s Club, we also allow student artists to display their work for free in the rooftop bar”. In a drive to get more students through the doors, Saturday late night shows have been reintroduced, starting with the cult-hit Fight Club this coming weekend.
Opened in March 1913 as the North Oxford Kinema, the Phoenix has undergone many changes of name and ownership over the decades. Whilst the Picturehouse chain, of which the Phoenix was the founding member in 1989, was bought out by Cineworld for £47.3 million in November 2012, the cinema has stayed independent for nearly all of its lifespan, and staff were keen to emphasise that the movie conglomerate does not affect the Phoenix’s arthouse programme of films.
Starting in 1930, having being bought by JR Poyntz, who installed sound equipment, the cinema introduced the showing of foreign, subtitled films. The cinema stayed in the family for 40 years, during which time it rose to prominence as one of the country’s leading arthouse cinemas.
In the 1970s, the cinema briefly took to showing pornographic films in its newly christened Studio X, but returned to its arthouse roots, after being bought by Charles and Kitty Cooper in 1977, who renamed the cinema, from the long-standing ‘Scala’, to ‘The Phoenix’.
As part of the centenary celebrations, the building will be getting a revamp, installing automatic doors, a new roof, and repainting the exterior.
Members of the Magdalen Film Society commented: “Happy Birthday to the Phoenix! Things are looking pretty tragic for independent cinema at the moment, so we should go down and support it.”
This month’s free ‘Slackers’ Club’ show, on 31st January, is the “paranormal romantic zombie comedy” Warm Bodies, starring former Skins lead Nicholas Hoult.