Indie cinemas handed lifeline grants

The Art Deco Rio cinema in Dalston

The Art Deco Rio cinema in Dalston - Credit: Rio cinema.wikimedia commons

Treasured independent cinemas, from the Rio in Dalston to the Phoenix in East Finchley, have been thrown a lifeline government grant.

A total of £16 million was awarded to 202 small scale picture houses by the Culture Recovery Fund, including the Close Up in Shoreditch (£23,270) , the Arthouse Crouch End (£71,391), the Barbican (£92,750), the Lexi in Kensal Rise (£162,000) and The Castle in Hackney. (£369,911)

Part of the bailout is a 'safety grant' to help venues become Covid-secure, while the rest is a to shore up their finances and help them survive the pandemic.  Many, like the Phoenix which opened in 1912 as the East Finchley Picturedrome and is the oldest continuously run cinema in the UK, are run as community cinemas by a charity.

Jelena Milosavljevic the cinema's programme and learning director said the grant would "provide invaluable support for us as we reopen the Phoenix for the community, helping us ensure we create an environment that is as safe as possible so our audiences feel confident returning."

Phoenix Cinema East Finchley

Phoenix Cinema East Finchley is the country's oldest continuously running cinema and been the location for Interview With The Vampire and The End of the Affair and My Week With Marilyn - Credit: Polly Hancock

The Castle, which is above a Homerton convenience store, dates from 1913 and was restored and reopened in 2016 following a crowdfunding campaign. While the Close Up in Sclater Street screens early films that have shaped the history of cinema. And the stunning Art Deco Rio which opened in 1915 as The Kingsland Empire, has been run as a not for profit independent since 1979.

Executive director Ollie Meek said: "We are hugely relieved by the Culture Recovery Fund support for the Rio cinema.
Not only does it secure our short-term future, but it means we can continue without having to
compromise our community work or diverse programme. The Rio has overcome much in its 100
year plus history, including the 1918 flu pandemic and the Blitz. With the support from the BFI I
believe we can survive Covid 19."

Dee Swift and Ash Charman revived the abandoned Castle Cinema by launching a £45,000 kickstarter cam

Dee Swift and Ash Charman revived the abandoned Castle Cinema by launching a £45,000 kickstarter campaign in 2016. - Credit: The Castle Cinema

Actor Michael Caine, who starred in Highgate-raised Christopher Nolan’s Tenet which drew audiences back to cinemas this autumn, encouraged audiences to support cinemas with safe visits where possible:

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“The moving image has the power to inspire; to delight; and to move. Film is one of the most powerful and accessible art forms on earth – and for many a local cinema is a place we know, love and have grown up with. A cinema is very often a vital part of any community and we need to support them in order to keep the art of film and the sense of community alive.”

The BFI administered the fund and chief executive Ben Roberts said: “Local independent cinemas are hubs and lifelines for communities. From educational programmes and workshops for young people, to screenings for the elderly and audiences with specialised needs, these cinemas play such an important role in people’s lives. The Culture Recovery Fund will mean that many survive the current crisis, and go on to play a vital role in the recovery of local communities, bringing people together to offer joy, solace and the magic of the big screen.”