A 103-year-old East Oxford cinema will complete a £100,000 makeover next month after three years of renovation.

The Ultimate Picture Palace, off Cowley Road, is to close for four days while asbestos is cleared to make way for a new ventilation system.

The latest stage of work marks the end of owner Becky Hallsmith’s three-year campaign to transform the building after buying it in 2011.

Ms Hallsmith, who lives in East Oxford, said: “I have done it because I thought the place deserved the love. I think it’s a cinema that East Oxford deserves.”


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Asbestos was discovered when Ms Hallsmith bought the building, but it was not removed as it was contained in one area and did not pose any threat to the health of visitors and staff.

But work was needed to remove it from the cinema’s ventilation shaft so a new system could be installed.

Work began on Friday but the cinema will close today and resume its normal programme of events on Friday.

The new ventilation system is expected to be in place before the end of the year but will be installed during the day when the cinema is usually closed.

Ms Hallsmith said: “The new system will use recycled warmth from our projection room as well as bringing in fresh air during the warmer summer months.”

Renovation work at the cinema, which first opened in 1911, has transformed the outside of the building, which has new lettering.

This was followed by new shelving in the bar and new grey carpets, while the walls were revamped from a terracotta colour to dark blue in August last year.

An online Kickstarter campaign launched in December 2013 then raised £9,500 towards the £30,000 needed for 108 new seats, which were installed in May.

Marketing officer Clare Stimpson, 28, said: “When Becky bought the building I remember she always told me that when you walk past it looked old.

“Now when you walk past, people stop and take pictures.”

Ms Hallsmith said she has paid for the revamp through ticket sales, which also allowed her to buy a new projector and sound equipment.

Ms Stimpson, from North Oxford, said: “It’s really wonderful. I grew up in East Oxford and I used to go to the cinema when I was younger.

“I love the cinema and I think Becky has saved it and made it something that people can enjoy for future years.

“I also liked the atmosphere when I was younger and I think she has kept the essence of that.”

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