The Phoenix Picturehouse is an Oxford icon. It might not be the Rad Cam, the Bod or the Pret on Cornmarket, but it’s certainly a lot more fun. Despite the fact that it’s a massively visible fixture on Walton Street, a surprising amount of students either haven’t been to the cinema or don’t even know it exists. ‘Do you mean the Odeon near the bus station?’ was one response.
He is, of course, mistaken and that all-too-frequent mistake means that a whole bunch of Oxford students are missing out on the chance to see some fascinating films. In the pursuit of cinematic justice, I braved the torrential rain and headed out to Jericho in order to speak to Matt Taylor, assistant- manager of the Phoenix. To put it simply, the Phoenix’s focus is on ‘quality mainstream, world cinema and cult films’. The rotational policy for screened films means that you’ll be getting a second chance to catch up on a film that you missed at the multiplex, whilst the emphasis on world cinema is bound to appeal to Oxford’s multicultural student body.
But, as a student, every penny counts, and most people would assume that this small cinema chain is going to be a lot pricier than the multiplexes. The reality is somewhat different. Once a month, the Phoenix runs the ‘Slackers Club’, which screens a free preview to anyone with a student card. On top of that, the cinema is reintroducing Saturday night late shows this autumn at a significantly reduced price for students. If that all sounds good but you’re feeling the wild call of the Purple Turtle instead, remember that the Phoenix has a fully licensed bar and that you can take alcohol into the screens with you. There’s little doubt that a cocktail and some ‘healthy snacks’ will spice up Marley (the Bob Marley documentary, out later this month).
There are drawbacks. I’m told that there are no foreseeable plans to install 3D into the cinema (certainly not before the release of The Hobbit next Christmas). So if that’s ‘your thing’ then you’ll probably want to go elsewhere. The snacks and beverages are also pricy (though Odeon prices are hardly different), and if you want an enormous box of popcorn to devour, you’ll be disappointed.
Still, with the ‘Union Tuesdays’ deal (2-for-1 tickets on Tuesdays for Union members) this deserves to be the student idyll that it has never quite become. So why not skip Avengers Assemble and go to the May 6th Q & A with TimPritchard, the director of Street Kids United, instead? Or see the disturbing Dinotasia, that looks like The Tree of Life’s dino sce nes cranked up to 11, whilst booking tickets to the upcoming screening of cult classic Robocop?
As if by perfect serendipity, there’s also a Woody Allen festival coming up in May, so if there are any heretics among you who haven’t seen Annie Hall or Manhattan, now is your chance to repent before the Film & TV editors of Cherwell burn you at the stake.