Favourite old cinema gets a fresh new look

thisisoxfordshire: Becky Hallsmith outside the revamped cinema Becky Hallsmith outside the revamped cinema

AN ICONIC independent cinema has been given a stunning facelift to restore it to its former glory.

Last year Becky Hallsmith from East Oxford took over the Ultimate Picture Palace in Jeune Street, off Cowley Road.

The attraction has been closed for about a fortnight so that the frontage could be restored and it reopens tonight.

A new sound system, digital projector and toilets have also been installed at the 116-seat single-screen cinema as part of the £50,000 investment.

Ms Hallsmith, 54, who lists classic movies Some Like it Hot and Philadelphia Story as her favourites, said: “The Ultimate is a beautiful building and when I took over last year I couldn’t resist restoring it to its former glory.

“The new facade brings out its character in such a stylish way, especially when it’s lit up at night.

“We closed on August 23 to refurbish the toilets and redesign the frontage.

“It’s a Grade II-listed building so we worked very closely with the city council’s planning office. With the new sound system, digital projector, work on the loos and the front of the cinema, I will be lucky to see any change out of £50,000.

“But the cinema really needed the investment.

“Without a digital projector we would be struggling to get films because there are fewer and fewer 35mm prints available.

“The words ‘The Ultimate Picture Palace’ are up there in lights in a new font and I hope it will bring in film fans because I think it looks stunning.

“When I first saw the new sign lit up there was a tear in my eye because I thought it looked so fantastic.

“We do run a kids’ club for families but target the arthouse market, with some foreign language films.

“We have a loyal following, but would love to see more people coming in.”

Films being shown tonight are Searching for Sugar Man at 7pm and A Simple Life at 9pm. On Sunday at 2pm, as part of Oxford’s Open Doors weekend, there will be a free screening of The Ultimate Survivor, a documentary about the cinema, and after the screening Ms Hallsmith will answer questions about the revamp.

Previous owners Philippa Farrow and Jane Derricott decided to sell the cinema last year.

The friends had bought it in 2009 and ran it with the help of a team of volunteers.

Originally known as the Oxford Picture Palace, the cinema opened on February 24, 1911, and celebrated its centenary last year.

It became a furniture store in the 1920s but was turned back into a cinema in 1976 by BBC Oxford presenter Bill Heine, who named it the Penultimate Picture Palace.

Squatters inhabited the building after the cinema closed in 1994, but it reopened as the Ultimate Picture Palace in 1997.

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