Threat of closure
Charles Cooper maintained ‘art house’ standards against heavy odds but, by the early 1980s, The Phoenix was losing £20,000 a year. He was ready to sell the cinema and retire.
In 1983, a property company applied to Barnet Council for planning permission to build an office block on the site occupied by the cinema and the two lock-up garages behind it. Barnet Council’s Planning Committee approved the development in July but the Greater London Council rejected the proposal. Even so, a public inquiry in April 1984 granted permission for the office block to go forward.
In the meantime, widespread opposition had developed, with a 6,235-signature petition against closure being organised by the local Young Socialists in the winter of 1983-4 and various neighbourhood interest groups expressing their disapproval. Given this support, Charles Cooper developed a set of plans that would help guarantee the cinema’s future (including a bar-restaurant and a second screen). Through 1984, the GLC (despite a closure set for spring 1986) developed an active interest in supporting the cinema’s survival and this resulted in a £325,000 grant to The Phoenix Cinema Trust, formed early in 1985, to purchase the cinema from Contemporary in December 1985. Darryl Telles talks about helping to save the cinema from closure: