A DESPERATE survival appeal by Oxford’s only independent cinema passed its £18,000 target in 90 minutes – with help from the Oxford Mail.

The Ultimate Picture Palace, in Cowley Road, is a local institution with a history stretching back to 1911, but after almost four months of lockdown, it has found itself starved of funds and struggling to survive.

Last Thursday, the Oxford Mail launched its three-week crowdfunder appeal to raise £18,000. An hour and a half later it exceeded its target, to the delight of staff, volunteers and film buffs.

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Buoyed by their success, managers pushed the target to £34,000, meaning the cinema can reopen with films every day of the week on reopening in the autumn. It smashed that target by 5pm the same day.

Manager Tom Jowett said: “Our supporters have given in their hundreds and as a result we reached our first target of £18,000 within 90 minutes of launching at noon.

Oxford Mail:

Tom Jowett and Micaela Tuckwell

“We then increased our target to £34,000 to ensure that we reopen with a full seven day-a-week programme from September.

“We are extraordinarily grateful to each and every one of our supporters who have donated to us. This immense effort has saved the UPP from running out of money during this crisis. We will now be able to start planning for an exciting ‘welcome back’ programme in September crammed full of great new releases, classics and special events.

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“We are incredibly moved by the emphatic support we have received.”

While some cinemas opened last weekend under the relaxation of lockdown, the UPP is delaying to ensure social distancing measures are in place.

Mr Jowett said there was little demand from customers to return and that there were few new releases to screen.

General manager Micaela Tuckwell was thrilled by the response. She said: “What happened on Friday was an extraordinary moment in the history of the Ultimate Picture Palace and the story of community support for the arts in our city.

“There has been a vast outpouring of support and love for the cinema over a matter of hours from our treasured customers and friends.

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“The idea of having to run a three-week fundraising campaign to raise £18,000 so that we didn’t run out of money before we could even open, seemed like having a mountain to climb.

Oxford Mail:

“While I had an inkling that we would manage to raise the funds eventually, I was nervous about asking for donations at this point in time as so many of us have been struggling throughout this pandemic. Some have lost jobs, health and well-being, and of course, most tragically, loved ones.

“For all of these reasons, I was nervous about the fundraiser. However, at the forefront of my mind was being able to save the jobs of the UPP’s outstanding and loyal staff, as well as the cinema that we all love for now and future generations.

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“We then increased our goal to £34,000 and reached that target by 5pm. My head was truly spinning.”