SPECIAL screenings at an East Oxford cinema could improve the health of dementia patients.

The Ultimate Picture Palace, in Jeune Street, has launched its year-long programme of dementia-friendly screenings for families in Oxfordshire.

Specially-adapted movies will hit the big screen once a month to help people with dementia feel less isolated and help them recall past memories.

Owner Becky Hallsmith said the cinema’s new programme was “close to her heart” after her 81-year-old mother Robin Hallsmith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about eight years ago.

She said: “Because my mother has Alzheimer’s, obviously it was something that I had been toying with. I know how much my mother enjoys a musical and she remembers the words to all of the songs better than me.

“We hope that our traditional-style auditorium will also remind the audience of the cinemas they went to as children, making them feel comfortable and safe so that they can relax and enjoy the films.”

Charity Age UK Oxfordshire estimate about 8,500 in the county suffer with dementia, which results in memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.

Families will be welcomed into the 104-year-old cinema to enjoy classic musicals and films as part of its Meet Me at the Movies programme.

It comes after the 108-seat cinema teamed up with organisation Creative Dementia Arts Network (CDAN) to host the season of adapted screenings.

Organisation Film Hub South East awarded the pair £5,000 through its Community Awards programme, which helps cinemas wanting to work with harder to reach audiences.

Dim lights will be used during all the screenings, with the sound slightly lowered and clearer signs throughout the cinema.

The audience will also be free to walk around the cinema while movies are playing, as well as chat and sing along with the motion pictures.

Ms Hallsmith, of East Oxford, said it is important to make sure people continue to integrate within the community after being diagnosed with Dementia.

She added: “I think we should take people with Dementia out in to the public space. It’s good for them.”

The cinema launched its programme last night with the screening of 1952 musical Singin’ in the Rain.

Screenings will take place on the first Wednesday of every month.

CDAN chief executive Maria Parsons said: “People with dementia have problems with short term memory but their memory for the past is usually well preserved.

“The arts enrich all of our lives but are of particular benefit for people with dementia for whom participation reduces stress and enhances self-confidence and self-esteem.

“Besides engaging the brain and stimulating emotions, being part of an audience enjoying a film helps people with dementia and their carers to feel less isolated and challenges the stigma associated with the condition.”