BECKY Hallsmith, who has died aged 60, made East Oxford’s much-loved independent cinema into a ‘second home’ for hundreds of people.

She took on the Ultimate Picture Palace in Jeune Street in 2011 ‘on a whim’ from its tired-out owners and, in the minds of many people, became synonymous with the institution.

She was, in many ways, the perfect person to take on the challenge – bringing her ‘vivacious and energetic’ personality to continue and enhance the cinema’s reputation as offering something different to the city’s many chain-multiplexes.

Its one-room, DIY feel, has been compared to ‘watching films at a friend’s house’ by some of the many loyal customers who have paid tribute since her death on September 6.

In her seven years running the cinema Ms Hallsmith pioneered unique events including live musical performances to accompany silent films alongside an ever-eclectic mix of the latest releases.

Friends have described her ‘non-nonsense’ approach to running the place which became both a personal passion and a thriving business under her stewardship.

She said one of the greatest pleasures of her life was to give the building ‘some TLC’ and ‘enhance her beauty'.

This she did with a £100,000 restoration over three years which replaced the notoriously uncomfortable seating and transformed the facade of the Grade II-listed building.

Ms Hallsmith was born in Kensington, London on November 12, 1957.

But she said she ‘owed her existence’ to Oxford as it was here where her parents met in the 1950s.

Her father, Val, was a Jewish refugee who had fled from Vienna and her mother, Robyn, was from India.

The two met in Oxford’s first espresso bar in Cornmarket Street which was run by Val who took on student Robyn as a summer job – against the university’s wishes.

Much of Ms Hallsmith’s early life was spent in London and she attended St Pauls Girls School in Hammersmith before studying economic history at Sussex University.

Later she moved to Truro in Cornwall, living with step-father Harvey Hallsmith who helped to instil her love of film.

Mr Hallsmith was an actor who worked in TV and films, including notable roles in Zulu, Jo’s Boys and The Vampire Lovers.

This passion for cinema followed Ms Hallsmith throughout her life and when she celebrated her 60th birthday last year she curated a series of films – each with its own personal story.

They included the cult classic A Clockwork Orange which she got to see in Rio de Janiero in 1981 – combining her two great loves of film and travel – while it was banned from UK cinemas.

Speaking at the time she said: “The censorship rule there meant a black disc covered up certain parts of the body we weren’t meant to see, which jiggled around in a most disconcerting way.”

After working as a TV producer and in advertising, Ms Hallsmith moved to Oxford in the early 2000s – a period she described as ‘the first time I really put down roots’.

But shortly after her arrival in the city she was diagnosed with lymphoma and faced an unlikely battle to survive.

Against the odds she spent 15 years in remission and always treated this as extra time she had been gifted.

When the disease re-emerged earlier this year, she remained resolute and became a much-loved face at the Churchill Hospital, always known for her positive outlook and ‘infectious laugh’.

Described as a lover of ‘food, wine and great conversation’ until the end, friends have paid tribute, saying she was ‘unquestionably loyal’ and ‘fiercely protective’.

She is survived by her mother, cousin Paul – who she re-connected with when back in Oxford – and his wife Margaret and children Rosa, Max and Otto.