The Palace Cinema in Alton has finally closed after 110 years – 85 of them in the current Art Deco building which is up for sale at £850,000.
Raj Jeyasingam, who owned the independent cinema in Normandy Street for its last 27 years, announced in July 2021 that he would shut it in September 2022 if nobody could meet his asking price.
A second sign for the Hampshire Lettings Company next door has now signalled the end by replacing the Palace Cinema sign over the picture house doors.
Members of the Save Alton Cinema campaign admit there is “little prospect” of any more films being shown in the building designed by architect Robin A Thomas and opened with Poor Little Rich Girl starring Shirley Temple. But they are searching for ways to retain the cinema experience in the town while preserving memories of the Palace.
Campaigner Tim Woolman said: “We’re very sad to have lost the Palace Cinema, but we remain hopeful about the future. Almost 3,000 people cared enough to sign our petition, and more than 300 filled out a survey sharing their views, showing there is a good appetite for cinema-going, given a suitable combination of experience, location and price.
“The Save Alton Cinema campaign has searched for alternative venues suited to showing films, working with people who have some knowledge of suitable rooms and licensing to cover the venue and the copyright for the public screening.
“Four venues have expressed interest in showing films, at least occasionally, so if and when that happens we will support them as much as possible.
“In the background, ambitions continue for a more cinema-like facility in the town.
“However, bringing together the funding, venue and team resources will need a lot of support. We welcome people’s suggestions via email to save [email protected]”
The Memories of The Palace Cinema Alton project team is compiling an oral history of cinema-going in Alton to be stored at the Curtis Museum.
So far memories have included Saturday kids’ clubs, sold-out showings of The Full Monty and discos in the 1970s.
Project lead Abbe Fletcher said: “It’s wonderful to hear what an impact the cinema has had on people’s lives.”
The next Record Your Memories event will be held at Alton Community Centre on November 19 from 2pm to 4pm.