Arts & Culture, Film & TV, Theatre, University Life

Rise of The Phoenix: why independent cinemas are more important than ever

Written by Amber Hickman

Film Spotlight: Eternal Beauty (dir. by Craig Roberts, 2019)

            ★★★★ | A beautiful, yet jarringly real representation of mental health, schizophrenia, and how the road to getting better is never simple, or what we expect.


Not even two weeks after reopening, I had the opportunity to visit the Phoenix Cinema and Art Gallery, eager to once again enjoy the cinema experience that I missed as a result of Covid-19. From the closures of cinemas to the halting of film productions leading to an absence of new releases, this has truly been an unprecedented year for film. Now, the majority of major studios and cinema multiplexes are likely to survive this time, but sitting on our very own doorstep, the Phoenix provides so much more than your typical Hollywood blockbuster and now is the time to draw our attention to it.

The Phoenix offers a diverse range of cinema, from international hits to small-studio releases in a warm and friendly environment—updated, of course, according to Covid-19 guidelines in order to ensure your visit is as safe as possible, which is something that I know is important to myself and many others.

Phoenix COVID guidance (Amber Hickman)

Beyond film, the Phoenix also offers stage and theatre performances on the big screen, accessible screenings (including autism-friendly, subtitled, and audio descriptive showings), film courses, art exhibitions, a monthly quiz, and a wonderful café. Not exactly the range your local Odeon provides.

Another great thing about independent cinemas is their dedication to the wider community. Right now, the Phoenix is celebrating Black History Month by providing resources to gain access to a variety of cinema featuring the stories of Black people, told from their perspectives. They are also featuring an online course focusing on Mental Health in cinema, which is running from November 26th until December 3rd and is £25—only £20 for members.

Pre-pandemic, I made many visits to the Phoenix thanks to their student ticket prices, where I got to see incredible films such as Portrait of a Lady on Fire (dir. by Céline Sciamma, 2019). This time I was able to visit just in time for the BFI London Film Festival 2020. Transformed for digital audiences, the Festival hoped to alleviate some of the difficulties caused by the pandemic There, I had the opportunity to view Eternal Beauty (dir. by Craig Roberts, 2019), which premiered at last year’s festival, but was not released for distribution until October of this year.

The film tells the story of Jane, a woman with schizophrenia, as she navigates love, life, and her family whilst also managing the expectations others have of her to ‘be better’. Visually, the film is stunning, with strong usage of colour palettes to not only represent emotions, but also connections and the relationships the characters have with each other. The bold representation and honesty regarding both the good and the bad sides of recovery will leave a lasting impression, especially for those who have struggled with mental health, or are close to someone who has.

Eternal Beauty, dir. Craig Roberts

If you’ve got a free evening in Leicester, I’d recommend a venture out to watch something new here. Not only will you be supporting the local businesses close to you, but you will also be supporting the arts industries that have suffered greatly over the past several months.

All screenings and other information regarding what the Phoenix has to offer can be found here.

Many thanks to the Phoenix Cinema and Art Gallery for providing Leicester Student Magazine with the opportunity to visit them for their re-opening.

Update: This article was written prior to the announcement of the second national lockdown. With the lockdown meaning we can no longer visit the cinema in person, you can still gain access to the Phoenix Cinema’s online resources and support them by donating or purchasing a membership.


Amber Hickman is a third-year Film and English student. You can keep up to date with her attempts of being a writer as well as general ramblings on her twitter: @ambmarie_