In 1912 Will Onda, a tin-plate factory worker turned acrobat turned film producer from Preston bought what had been a weaving shed in the small mill-town of Longridge and turned it into a music hall. In the age of silent cinema, local pianists would accompany the films.
As well as showing films, Mr Onda also made his own films out of a production house in Preston.
Later that century the cinema was taken over by a Longridge builder and entrepreneur, Freddie Fletcher, under whose reign the cinema was locally known as ‘Fleck’s Flicks’. It was Fletcher who was responsible for some of the more ornate stonework on the facade, as well as for pinching the white horse sign from an empty-standing beer house in the town, and fixing it to The Palace exterior.
In the 1950s the cinema closed for a while and the building was used as a roller rink and bingo hall. Many remember the reign of Mrs Fletcher, who was renowned for her strict patrolling of the balcony and for throwing out children who misbehaved!
In 1974 the cinema was purchased by the Williamson family, who in the 1990s purchased the terrace house next-door and extended the cinema to incorporate the area which today houses our bar. In the 21st century Dorothy Wiliamson oversaw the cinema’s transition from film to digital projection, a change essential for the survival of The Palace.
In 2017 and aged 82, Dorothy Williamson decided it was time for The Palace to pass into new hands again and it was bought by another Longridge resident, Tony Hewitt, and his company Parkwood Holdings. Sadly Tony died just a day before the sale went through but building renovations went ahead as planned and the cinema re-opened after four months of extensive repairs. It is now run by Tony’s daughter, Lara, a team of talented and committed local managers and staff, and with the back-up and support of Parkwood Holdings.