Phoenix rebirth heartens Lincoln Ritz Cinema revival

OTB’s Michael Skinner at the Phoenix community cinema in East Finchley, London

— Off The Bench, a Lincoln-based voluntary organisation, have set out to bring back the Ritz cinema to its former glory. This week, the team went to London to draw inspiration from a similar project.


The OTB team took the opportunity on Wednesday to draw inspiration from a similar project in London. We were fortunate enough to be invited down to the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley to view their project and ask questions. We went down with high hopes, and we weren’t disappointed by the 200 seat community venue.

After having a chat with general manager Cassie Birtwistle, the similarities between the two cinemas were clear to see. The Phoenix itself opened in 1910 (27 years before the Ritz) and was run as a purely commercial venture up until 1985. Since then, the cinema has been run as a community project via the Phoenix Cinema Trust and underwent major restoration just last year to celebrate its centenary. Those in tune with The Ritz’ history will realise that our renovation work coincides with the 75th anniversary since its initial opening in 1937.

Through its character and charm, the Phoenix has been able to build up and retain a loyal customer-base. The traditional and personal experience is something that many, including ourselves, find hard to tear away from.

Despite the retro art décor interior of the cinema, the Phoenix has had to move with the times, just as The Ritz plans to also do. Richard Crompton, Technical & Projection Manager, explained the cinema has the facilities for 35mm projections, but much of the showings are now done via digital equipment to enhance quality. We ourselves similarly want our patrons to experience the traditional offering at The Ritz, but also not compromise picture quality.

Seeing what has been achieved at a very similar project to our own has whetted the appetite of the whole team. We’re not naive to think that mistakes won’t be made along the way, but meeting people and seeing how they have done things is helping us learn what we need to do. The whole trip has further strengthened our belief in The Ritz project and what can be accomplished through community power.

Check back next week for news on a Ritz Photography exhibition currently being compiled by students from the University of Lincoln including a sneak preview.

If you’re not already involved but want to be, contact the team on ritz@otblincs.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @OtbRitzCinema.

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