An independent cinema in Leicester is planning a £7.1million expansion at the Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre.
The project – Phoenix 2020 – will see the number of its cinema screens from two to four; a larger and more prominent digital art gallery; a bigger Café Bar and kitchen; and the extension of existing spaces for education, filmmaking and creative learning.
Phoenix 2020 will enable a richer and more ambitious cinema, digital art and education programme, giving more people of all ages the opportunity to enjoy, engage with and create film, art and digital technologies.
Since moving to Leicester’s Cultural Quarter seven years ago, Phoenix has more than doubled its audience numbers to around 200,000 visits a year. By increasing capacity, the proposed developments are expected to grow visitor numbers further – doubling the number of arts attenders to 111,000 and increasing cinema sales by 32,000 annually.
Film Studies students on DMU degree courses regularly use the Phoenix cinema for lectures and screenings, while film experts from DMU’s Cinema and Television History (CATH) research centre do regular film introductions. Students compile an annual film festival as part of their course.
In June this year, supported by Leicester City Council, Phoenix made a successful first stage capital funding proposal to Arts Council England, securing a provisional £4.17 million for the development.
The charity is now working with its partners to develop detailed designs, to consult with a wide range of people and organisations, and raise the remaining £3 million to match the Arts Council provisional capital grant offer.
Subject to planning consent, Phoenix 2020 will see the venue’s existing ground floor space expanded into the current outdoor café garden area. This will provide space for two new 70 seat cinema auditoria, the larger digital arts gallery and extended Café Bar. The design proposals aim to retain existing levels of parking around Phoenix and improve outdoor café space.
Phoenix CEO John Rance said it was an “exciting point” in the development of the Phoenix. He said: “We now have an opportunity to build upon the growing interest in our cultural programme, to offer more chances for more people to benefit from great film and art. This is also an important development for Leicester’s wider economy and the creative sector.”
Phoenix 2020 has the support of the charity’s major stakeholders including Leicester City Council, Arts Council England (ACE), De Montfort University (DMU), the British Film Institute (BFI), and the Leicester and Leicestershire Economic Partnership (LLEP).
Sir Peter Soulsby, Leicester’s City Mayor, said: “We are fortunate to have such a vibrant and ambitious independent cinema and art centre in Leicester. With Leicester City Council’s ongoing support, Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, building audiences and enriching the city’s cultural offer. We will be working closely with Phoenix to help them develop their plans and attract the funds they need to realise their bold vision.”
DMU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dominic Shellard, said: “As a long-standing stakeholder, De Montfort University supports Phoenix’s strategy for development which will see the organisation continue to play a leading role within Leicester’s cultural and educational economy. We are proud of our partnership with Phoenix and look forward to working with them and Leicester City Council on their plans for the future.”
Amanda Nevill, ceo of the British Film Institute, said: “The expansion of their cinema and education spaces at the heart of one of our most vibrant cities is a great opportunity to engage more people from across the area’s diverse communities in the riches of British and world cinema.”