More than 300 people are taking part in buying local cinemas for £100,000 to save them from closure

So far more than 300 people have come forward to buy a piece from Oxford’s oldest and last independent cinema.

A community has banded together to save their local cinema

Hundreds of people have come forward to buy a piece of Oxford’s oldest and only independent cinema, raising nearly £100,000 in just days.

The local community rallied around the iconic, heritage-listed Ultimate Picture Palace on Friday when it was revealed it was making an offer to become community-owned in order to remain open and independent.

Over the May bank holiday weekend, 382 people invested £97,824 in their sumptuous Edwardian cinema – almost a third of the £312,575 needed.

The ultimate picture palace The cinema’s future was jeopardized when its owner, Becky Hallsmith, died in 2018, which staff and volunteers knew would result in the cinema’s eventual sale.

Mrs Hallsmith had wished the cinema, with its quaint street-facing ticket office and neoclassical arches, to become community property after her death.

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The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford, Jeune Street

This sparked a campaign by employees and moviegoers to buy the movie theater through the Community Benefit Society’s stock program, which would see shareholders see a potential three percent annual return on their investment.

This campaign, called ‘Lights, Community, Action’, was launched on Friday night with film critics and local MP Anneliese Dodds to rally support and save cinema.

Lights, Community, Action exceeded their early fundraising targets almost immediately after the share scheme opened, raising £18,000 in the first 90 minutes.

Micaela Tuckwell, director of the cinema, said so Oxford Mail: “It’s really remarkable that the breakdown of the numbers is made up of so many small donations – and that makes me so happy that it’s grassroots.

“On Friday we had the open event with employees able to answer questions.

“There was a real sense of community, we sold out shows every night and it was so nice for me and the staff to see that.

“However, there was real concern when people asked what would happen if we didn’t raise the money.

“I was able to explain and say that the theater would go to the open market and there was a possibility that the theater would not be a joint venture, or if it would be a theater at all.”

Cinema shares cost £1, with a minimum buy-in of 50 shares to become a shareholder. The theater is offering a discounted minimum purchase of 30 shares to anyone aged 16-29 or anyone with an OX1, OX3 or OX4 zip code.

The program isn’t just for Oxford residents though, Ms Tuckwelln continued: ‘We’ve had investment from America and Australia and that’s the beauty of Oxford. People fall in love with the place and its institutions.”

You can learn more about the Ultimate Picture Palace share program here.

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