The future looks bright for the future of independent arts and entertainment as Lancashire’s historic Palace Cinema reopens its doors to the public.
The vintage cinema, based in Market Place just east of Preston in the market town of Longridge, reopened last week after a five month rejuvenation project, lead by new owner Lara Hewitt, to transform the business into something bigger and better than ever before.
Lara, who last year moved back to the town after six years teaching drama in Germany and Sri Lanka, said: “It’s been an interesting experience! Exciting too; There’s been a lot of hard work.
“We’ve been open seven days now and it’s been nice; we’ve got a lot of positive feedback from everyone about the new look. They like that the ice cream isn’t too expensive too!
“Everyone has worked overtime and extra hours to get this together.”
The cinema was put on the market in July last year after then 81-year-old owner of 41 years, Dorothy Williamson, decided to retire.
She told the Post at the time that she wanted the cinema to remain a special place Longridge, something Lara and parent company The Parkwood Group believe they have honoured.
“We’re open all day Saturday and Sunday for people to come and just hang out if they want a place to relax,” Lara explained.
The schedule has something for everybody, from ‘Sunday Classics’ including Casablanca, to contemporary blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War and musicals including Grease.
Lara alongside house manager Patricia Ovin now want to make the film house a “cultural hub”, offering art and film classes as well as the potential for dance classes and stage productions. They have already started a monthly book club.
Lara, 36, said: “We want to bring people together, it’s just an issue of time. Once we get the main business going we can branch out.”
An initial opening of March was on the cards but delays brought on by extra work and weather woes saw it pushed back until May.
Lara said: “We had some dry rot and asbestos that we had to sort out. The building would simply have fallen down if we hadn’t.”
The Parkwood Group purchased the cinema with the original intentions of Lara running the business alongside her father Tony, but he sadly passed away in December last year.
“I think he’d love it,” Lara said.