Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre stands proudly in the city’s Cultural Quarter – a distinctive and highly valued venue, which shows a variety of indie, family-friendly and retro films.
Last year, around 40,000 customers were welcomed through its doors. However, many more are expected to enjoy the facilities in 2023, due to several new and exciting developments at the site; two brand new cinema screens, an expansive art gallery, a newly extended cafe and (to top it all), a fabulous roof top terrace bar. It’s an exciting new feature, which is said to be one of the largest in Leicester…
That’s according to John Rance, CEO of Phoenix Cinema and Arts Centre, who shared his excitement with Pukaar ahead of the venue’s grand re-opening, on January 20.
“The expansion is all part of our ambition to make inspiring film and art available to all, and we’re looking forward to welcoming more customers through the doors in 2023!” he said.
“As a result of the investment, we’re expecting to see the number of visitors here at Phoenix double within the next five years,” he went on to reveal.
“Having four screens now, means that we’re able to offer more films, and more showtimes than ever before – something which our customers said they wanted. The rooftop bar – set to open in Spring- is also an asset which will be used for fun events – things like film quizzes and cabaret film nights.
“It will also be available for business and private hire. However, I think through many months of the year, it’s just going to be a bit of a destination bar in the city. That’s what we’d like to create…”
As well as the new screens, Phoenix now boasts an expansive art gallery, which will showcase the work of both local and international artists throughout the course of the year.
It will serve as a stunning centrepiece to the newly extended cafe area, something which has doubled in size as a result of the developments.
The project, entitled ‘Phoenix 2020,’ has been under construction since September 2021 and is the result of an £8 million cash injection, from stakeholders including Leicester City Council, Arts Council England and the British Film Institute.
However, individuals and small businesses also donated money to help make Phoenix’s plans a reality.
“Phoenix is a relatively small charity, so we had generous financial contributions from our stakeholders, and we really couldn’t have done it without them,” said Mr Rance.
“350 individuals and small businesses also lent their financial support to the project, and their contributions were vital – not only financially, but also in just inspiring us and encouraging us to keep going,” he added.
“We’ve all felt very inspired, even during the difficult times by the way locals were donating and supporting us.”
As a token of thanks, some of these donors have had their names inscribed on various fixtures within the Phoenix; seats, doors and even cinema screens themselves.
The idea to expand the Phoenix was conceived in 2016, due to the success of the venue at the time.
It opened in November 2010 and audiences grew steadily in the years that followed.
“We got to about 2015/16, and there were times when we were actually turning people away because we were so busy,” recalled Mr Rance.
“The cafe was often crowded and we could see demand increasing. At that point, we decided to look at options of what we could do to enable more people to come and enjoy Phoenix – to make it more comfortable and also expand our outreach.
“That’s when Phoenix 2020 was born.
“We’ve done a remarkable job of converting that initial idea, into a reality just six years later,” he added.
“It may feel like a long time, but it’s quite quick for this sort of project.
“Of course we had to deal with other problems in that time like the pandemic, so I think our staff, our trustees and our contractors should feel very, very proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Looking ahead to 2023, Mr Rance says that he is looking forward to enjoying a “celebratory launch year,” and to continuing to provide a unique cultural experience to the people of Leicester.
“The Phoenix is an important part of Leicester’s mix and what we’re really looking forward to is welcoming customers back after what’s been a very difficult few years,” he added.
“We have some very loyal customers, but there are also those who maybe got out of the habit of coming to visit us due to the pandemic and the cost of living. Hopefully they’ll come and see us in 2023.
“We’re looking forward to giving people the distinctive Phoenix welcome, and to seeing everyone walk through the doors with a smile!”