CHAMPAGNE corks are flying at Oxford’s last independent cinema after film fans won their campaign to save it from closure.

The 111-year-old Ultimate Picture Palace, off Cowley Road, was left facing an uncertain future following the death of its owner Becky Hallsmith, with plans to sell it on the open market and fears it could be closed forever.

Read again: UPP hits share target and vows to go on to secure its future

In a bid to retain it for the community, a campaign was launched to give local movie-goers a chance to buy a share in the venue and fund improvements.

They are now celebrating after reaching their £366,000 target.

Built in 1911, the Ultimate Picture Palace is Oxford’s oldest purpose-built cinema and one of the oldest cinemas in the UK. Its successful Lights, Community, Action! campaign will allow the historic building to be revamped with new tiered seating to allow better view of the screen, improved access to its box office and projection room, and upgrades to its audiovisual system.

Oxford Mail: Comedian Tracey Collins and Oxford arts promoter Vez Hoper show their support for the UPP. Picture by Tim Hughes

Supporters: Comedian Tracey Collins and promoter Vez Hoper at the UPP. Picture by Tim Hughes

The campaign was backed by a number of industry luminaries including BAFTA chief Pippa Harris, Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, Downton Abbey actor Hugh Bonneville, film critic Peter Bradshaw, Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop and filmmaker and screenwriter Richard Curtis, who recorded a film in support of the campaign.

Micaela Tuckwell, UPP Executive Director, said: “We are so very grateful to everyone who has supported and invested in our campaign to secure our beloved UPP’s future.

“This uniquely historic cinema is now truly owned by a community that clearly treasures it so much. It’s a huge relief that we can now, after two years of uncertainty, move forward with confidence to continue to run the cinema in the way that has captured so many people’s imaginations, loyalty and support.

Oxford Mail: Tom Jowett and Micaela Tuckwell at the UPP

UPP's Tom Jowett and Micaela Tuckwell

“Not only this, but thanks to the phenomenal support that has taken us to our maximum target, we can also now greatly improve on the UPP, making it more accessible to the wider community, and creating an even more enjoyable and comfortable watching experience.

“Essentially, the UPP really is about to become the best it has ever been in its 111-year history. Long may it continue.”

She added: “We’d like to say a big thank you to all the staff and volunteers who have worked so hard under the uncertainty to help promote the campaign and keep the cinema going. This new chapter is set to be its most exciting one yet.”

Margaret Wolf, a cinema committee member, said: “We have added a new historic date in the cinema’s long and hugely-loved life. The campaign has now ended hitting not only its minimum and optimum targets, but achieving the heady heights of £366,500 thanks to an incredible 1,265 investors and even more supporters.

“It’s been a long hard four years but this is undeniably the best outcome we could have ever hoped for, thank you.”


Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok

Got a story for us? Send us your news and pictures here

List an event for free on our website here