OXFORD’S oldest and only independent cinema is up for sale – with shares available from next week.

The Ultimate Picture Palace, off Cowley Road, made the announcement yesterday evening.

On April 29, the cinema will be launching an offer in the hope of raising £312,575 in community shares.

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The share offer – coined Lights, Community Action – will raise money to purchase the business for the community, ensuring it remains open and stays independent.

Improvements to the building will also be made, while the share offer will also ensure the business has the money to not only survive, but grow in the coming years.

Following the death of the cinema’s last owner, Becky Hallsmith, in 2018, the cinema now has to be sold, and it was Ms Hallsmith’s wish for the iconic venue to become community owned.

To buy the business, the £312,575 figure needs to be raised through community shares.

Micaela Tuckwell, director of the cinema, told the Oxford Mail: “Becky’s dream was for the cinema to be community run, and since her passing, film lovers, friends and family have got together to work out how to make that a reality.

“We’ve been on a steep learning curve and we were due to launch this in March 2020, which wasn’t the best timing.

“We’re now at the point though where we’ve recovered from Covid and things are looking up for the business.

“At the heart of this, is to make sure the cinema is here for may years to come and that it remains at the heart of the community.”

Oxford Mail: Customers outside the iconic cinema. Picture provided by The Ultimate Picture PalaceCustomers outside the iconic cinema. Picture provided by The Ultimate Picture Palace

Despite the large sum which needs to be raised, Ms Tuckwell is confident it can be done and highlighted how in July 2020, an appeal to save the cinema passed its £18,000 target in just 90 minutes.

“Having run the business for the last three years, I know there are so many people who love the cinema and we’re really confident in raising the figure,” she said.

“When we ran the crowdfunder in 2020, to save the cinema during Covid, we had people from all over the world support us – people who were students in Oxford and the wider cinema community.

“The cinema business has been through a challenge in the last 10 years with streaming platforms, but the pandemic showed people appreciate independent cinemas and theatres.”

In a statement online, the cinema said: “We have designed our share offer so that as many people as possible can invest by offering a low buy-in structure alongside discounted rates.

“However, to reach our target, we know we will need a significant amount of shareholders investing at a higher level.

“So, if your circumstances allow and after you have read the risks around investing carefully, please consider investing beyond the minimum level if that is right for you.”

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Oxford Mail: Tom Jowett, programming, marketing and events manager at the cinema. Picture: Ed NixTom Jowett, programming, marketing and events manager at the cinema. Picture: Ed Nix

Community shares can be purchased via Ethex, with shares costing £1 each.

A minimum buy-in of 50 shares (£50) ensures becoming a shareholder.

The cinema is offering a discounted minimum buy-in of 30 shares (£30) for people aged 16-29, or have an OX1, OX3 or OX4 postcode.

Shareholders will become co-owners of the cinema, and will be able to vote at shareholder meetings.

To purchase shares, register with Ethex and take a short approval quiz about the risks of investing.

The cinema advises that the process of registering and purchasing shares takes between 15 and 20 minutes.

Contact Ethex on 01865 403304 or via help@ethex.org.uk, for assistance on registering or purchasing shares.

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