Palace Cinema in Alton should look to Hertfordshire for inspiration

Monday 23rd May 2022 6:00 am
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The Palace Cinema in Alton

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A CINEMA in a market town in Hertfordshire could be the model on which to build a future for Alton’s Palace Cinema.

The Palace is under threat, with owner Raj Jeyasingam intending to close it in September and East Hampshire District Council refusing to make it an Asset of Community Value.

But the Save Alton Cinema campaign group believes all it needs is tender loving care and vision.

Co-founder Annie Lancaster said: “Respondents to Save Alton Cinema’s market research cited factors such as a musty smell, litter in the aisles and the fact there is no ceiling in the ladies’ toilets as reasons for not making much use of the Palace Cinema.

“With investment, all of these issues currently preventing use of the cinema could easily be 
remedied.”

Kat Guenioui, another co-founder, said: “One of the arguments we come across regularly is that people just don’t go to the cinema any more.

“One has to wonder if anyone has told that to the people investing in new cinemas in Liphook and Farnham.”

Campaigner Alex Tucker, who worked at the Rex Cinema in Berkhamsted from 2005 to 2008, said: “There is a lot about Alton that reminds me of Berkhamsted in that it is about the same size and is a similar distance to London.

“This really piqued my interest in understanding a bit more about the Palace and the potential it could have for the local community having seen this happen first hand with the Rex in Berkhamsted.”

The Rex shut in the late 1980s but its 1930s art deco architecture survived.

It was listed by the National Trust to prevent demolition and campaigner James Hannaway installed cutting-edge projection and audio equipment and luxurious seating in rows in the circle and around cabaret tables with a bar in the stalls.

Residents gave time and expertise while money was raised by selling seat sponsorship and membership.

Alex said: “During my time working at the Rex we sold out for nearly every screening.

“Often there would be queues for hours going around the block and screenings which could have been sold out several times over, it was that special.

“I really believe the Palace has the same potential and can be an integral part of Alton’s community and be a public space whereby cinema going can be fun, inexpensive and bring a bit of Hollywood glamour to Hampshire.”

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