We are one of England's oldest surviving cinemas and our story is one of the magic of the big screen in a small town. Watch our short film from Christmas 2019, set to the song 'At The Palace' by local singer-songwriter Glyn Shipman, to see the story of one local man's life at The Palace over the decades.
Who we are
Our Palace started her life as a weaving shed in the small cotton-factory town of Longridge, Lancashire.
At some point someone had the fine idea to put a stage in the cotton shed, and The Palace became a music hall. In 1912 Will Onda, a gentleman from the big-smoke of Preston, leased The Palace and put a manager in place to run it not only as another venue for Mr Onda's variety acts, but also as a picturehouse. Will Onda ran Preston Film Services, which at the time was one of the biggest film distribution companies in the country. He was also a filmmaker in his own right, you can see some of his films here. https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-cotton-industry-preston-1920-online
The Palace apparently never made any money back then, but there was always an appetite from people wanting to run it. In the 1950s it was known as 'Fred's Flicks', as it was owned by Freddie Fletcher and often managed by Mrs Fletcher, who many elderly people in the town still remember. For a brief while in the middle of the 20th century it was a bingo hall and reportedly even a roller rink! In 1976 The Palace was bought by John and Dorothy Williamson, another film-loving couple. Dorothy continued to run The Palace after John had passed away, selling only in December 2017, by which time she herself was 82. The Palace was then bought by Tony Hewitt, another local entrepreneur, as a project to run with his arty daughter, Lara. The sale of The Palace went through on January 2nd, 2018 but sadly Tony passed away unexpectedly of sepsis less than 48 hours before. Since then Lara has been running The Palace with the help of many people from the local community as well as from her late father's company, Parkwood, and with support from the local council, Indy Cinema Group and Film Hub North. Lara opened up The Palace to being more than just a cinema again, hosting live bands, comedy nights, author talks, plays and community events and she started using The Palace as a place to make films.
Today The Palace is a space for making things happen. It's a small town venue for big dreaming. What the future holds, we don't quite know, but we're certain it will be a good story.
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