Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The magic of old cinemas

The reopened Phoenix cinema. Picture posted at
I´ve seen a couple of old cinemas in Los Angeles, even Newport Beach has one, and of course I went many times to visit the old neighborhoods cinemas in Buenos Aires. And of course, they can be never compared to the modern ¨multiplex¨, as Bernardette McNulty says in her article for, ¨it´s a kind of magic¨.
Here, some excerpts from McNulty´s article:
Next to the palm trees, New Port Beach old cinema. Picture by Myriam B. Mahiques
¨A trip to a modern multiplex cinema can feel like stepping onto the set of Blade Runner. Unmanned machines spew out tickets and chemically enhanced snacks while elevators transport you to hi-tech black caves where digital films leap out in 3D.
Yet, raging against the onslaught of modernity, this year there are a small number of Edwardian picture houses celebrating their centenaries by looking back to the past as much as they are embracing the future.
At the head of this exclusive club is the Phoenix cinema in East Finchley, north London, which has just reopened after a £1.1million refurbishment, followed by the Duke of York in Brighton and the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill.(....)The art-deco wall panels, created by Mollo & Egan in the Thirties, and the original Edwardian barrel ceiling, are a vision of deep vermilion and gold. You barely notice the subtle nips and tucks, the new lights and a new digital projection system – although they haven’t introduced 3D.
While many art-house cinemas have virtually turned themselves into middle-class private members clubs, charging premium prices for luxury seating and table service, the Phoenix has stuck with the more traditional – although still comfortable, Homer assures me – flip-up, red velvet seats. “The Phoenix is a community cinema and we wanted it to be accessible, looks and price wise, to everyone,” he says.
The Phoenix, although not its original moniker, is perhaps aptly named, given the number of reincarnations it has experienced over the past century. Gerry Turvey, a local film historian and director of the Phoenix, who has put together a book charting the cinema’s various manifestations, thinks it is this adaptability that has ensured its survival. “We’re still here because we were always an independent cinema and we were never part of the big chains,” he says. “This allowed us to adapt to survive.”
Those days of fleapit Bohemia seem long gone, although Homer argues that in the era before late-licensed clubs, cinemas were still one of the only places you could go late at night to smoke, a role they no longer need to fulfil. While still committed to showing non-mainstream films, the Phoenix, like most independent cinemas, seems to err on the side of the more accessible end of non-American films. Brit comedies like Tamara Drewe and the forthcoming Made in Dagenham will undoubtedly be a hit with their north London audience.
But in the era of DVDs and downloading, it is nevertheless a small miracle that these cinemas still exist – let alone thrive. Homer believes that the Phoenix is like a temple to film to which “people come because they still want to have that communal feeling of watching a film together in a place that is full of history. It is a kind of magic.”
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