Saturday 4 March 2017

The Saturday List #120 - Ten cinemas of the London Borough of Barnet - past and present

This week we had a momentous event. BAFTA winning director Ken Loach did a Q&A at The Phoenix cinema in Finchley, following a screening of his award winning film I, Daniel Blake. The cinema is one of my favouriote spots in the Borough. I have a long history with the place. As a teenager, we'd go to late night special screenings. They'd have features of two or three films, early into the morning. Three of the more memorable programs were The Exorcist series, The Godfather and Cheech and Chong. I have fond memories of the smoky ambience, as our group of friends would descend for the evening. I really thought it was the only way to watch a film. More recently, the cinema showed the two films I produced about our community - A Tale of Two Barnets and Barnet - The Billion Pound gamble. I couldn't have been prouder that for both films, the cinema was packed. Maybe one day I'll make another film. I've been a bit too tied up in music recently, but it is a medium I enjoy working in. It would be nice to have a budget next time. Anyway, I thought this was a good reason to have a look at the cinemas of the London Borough of Barnet.

Open cinemas. 

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The Phoenix
1. The Phoenix. Well I guess I said it all in the preamble! I do love this place. A real gem and would make any list of the best things in the Borough! Has a lovely little bar as well, with some great craft beers. Also does a nifty number in live screenings. If youhaven't been, go. Simple as.

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Everyman, Barnet
2. The Everyman, Barnet. This was previously The Odeon. Has a great bar and cafe. Also has a pretty nifty fish and chip shop next door! Refurbished and modernised, with nice comfy chairs. Highly recommended.

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Vue Finchley
3. Vue Cinema, Finchley. Some time in the early 1990's this was what our town planners etc thought the future for cinemas was. Big multiplexes in retail/entertaiment out of town locations. Situated conveniently between the Hollywood Bowl and a chain Italian restaurant, everything you could possibly want for the family? Now the formula feels a bit dated, but it is not a bad place to watch a film with the kids.

And that my friends is it. Those are the local cinemas that are still open. What about the ones we've lost?

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Odeon, Burnt Oak
4. The Odeon,  Burnt Oak . A classic old school cinema. I was very fond the place. I saw Planet of the Apes there. It was a proper old cinema, one big screen.

Guess what the site is now? No prizes if you guessed flats. I was amused to find that the last film shown was Monty Pythons "And now for something completely different". Quite apt I guess that in some ways, 1972 when it shut was around the time when the post war era was disintegrating and the new, faceless era of high street blandness was kicking off. Fittingly there is an Iceland on the site as well. I guess, when it comes down to it, theres more of a market for fish fingers in Burnt Oak than classic films.

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Hendon Odeon

5. The Hendon Odeon.  Films I saw here? Ben Hur (twice - loved it so went back to see it), Slade in Flame and Star Wars are the ones that immediately come to mind. Closed in 1979. At the time, Toyah Wilcox told me she was going to buy it and turn it into a music venue. I believed her and have always regretted that it didn't come to pass. And what is it now? Yep, flats. I always loved this place. It was my favourite cinema locally at the time. It just felt right. It was cheaper than the Classic, which maybe was why I liked it. More working class feel as well.

ABC Hendon
Hendon Classic
6. The Hendon Classic. This was a rather flashy cinema. The films I best remember seeing here were "Jurassic Park" and Manhatten (The Woody Allen film) in 1978. I best remember Manhatten because I took a young lady I was rather keen on at School to see it. I thought she'd be impressed by my sophistication and taste. She just thought it was boring and later told me she'd rather I took her to a punk rock gig. I suppose that was the end of my pretentious phase and I always blamed the place for my lack of success with said beauty! It's now a health club or something like that.

Belle-Vue Cinema
ABC Edgware
7. Edgware ABC. I guess this is the cinema where I've seen most films, so rather oddly I can't particularly remember any. It closed in 2000 and is now, yep flats and a Health club. The main attraction was it was open and easy to get to other than return of the Jedi. It was a decent cinema that did what it said on the tin.

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Colindale Curzon

8. Colindale Curzon.  I only ever went here once, in around 1981. Yet again it was to see a film with a rather attractive young lady. We were working together, she lived in Colindale and said that she fancied seeing American Werewolf in London. So I treated her to a night at the cinema and a Kentucky Fried Chicken. I seem to recall that the cinema was quite nice, but if I'm honest, I wasn't really paying too much attention to the architecture of the establishment. It is now Colindale Snooker club, and I've actually been there more than I ever went to the cinema.

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Mill Hill Cinema
9. Mill Hill cinema - Athene House in Mill Hill used to be a cinema. Sadly this closedin 1955, long before I was around, so all I've grown up with is a sense of loss as I felt cheated.  There has been talk over the years of reopening it, but I think has all been wishful thinking. I would love a small boutique cinema in Mill Hill and this would make a great site for such a venture, with a bar and cafe. It would radically help regenerate Mill Hill Broadway which has suffered real decline as a shopping destination.

And finally............ The Cinema that never was.

10. Pentavia Retail Park. The Mill Hill Neighbourhood forum have been agitating for a cinema at Pentavia Retail Park, on the A1/A41 where Homebase and TGI Fridays used to be. I quite like the concept of a new cinema and I was initally quite excited when I heard the plans. It then turned out that the council was not keen on the plan, preferring flats. The council view is that such things should be in Town Centres (which is a bit odd, given that they've just passed a huge development plan for Brent Cross which will devastate town centres). If I was to win the Euromillions, I'd buy Athene House and put the new cinema there rather than Pentavia. I think the Phoenix and The Everyman prove that a cinema is good for the local economy. As such the council should positively encourage them. I was told by an "expert" in 1993 that cinemas would be dead in 25 years. The Phoenix and the Everyman show that he was wrong. I always felt that the problem in the 1980's/90's was that they didn't really serve people who wanted to watch quality films and have a night out. The Everyman and Phoenix have figured this out.

Oh and finally a mention to a couple of cinemas not in Barnet but easily accessible. If you've never been to The Tricycle in Kilburn, it is a great little cinema. The second cinema isn't one I've been to, but I came across it when researching this blog, and am fascinated. This is The Safari, which is a cinema that shows Bollywood films in Harrow.  Sounds worth a visit?


Unknown said...

I think there was supposed to be a cinema in Edgware to replace the one that was demolished. There were plans to build another storey on the Broadwalk, or alternatively in the new building on the site of the old cinema. Eventually the cinema company got fed up with being messed around and pulled out. The gym that's there now is the same planning use category as a cinema but it's really not the same at all.

Anonymous said...

There used to be an older Classic cinema in Hendon in the 1950s, in Belle Vue Road. They pulled it down to create the Sentinel Centre, so it was near where the small Tesco store is today. It used to show art films and X-rated films and we young boys exaggerated our age to get in !

I am only guessing. but when the old Classic cinema was closed I assume that the owners took over the massive cinema at Hendon Central, as that was renamed the Classic cinema.

It didn't last very long and was renamed the ABC