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This gorgeous British seaside cinema is coming back from the dead

One of the country’s oldest picturehouses is firing up its projector again

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

In another good news story for Britain’s defiantly thriving cinema scene, the historic Electric Palace in the Essex town of Harwich is getting a new lease of life.

The Electric Palace is one of the oldest and most storied cinemas in the UK, a chocolate-box  screen nestled on a quiet street in the Essex seaside town. It first opened in 1911 and has survived the worst two World Wars, the threat of demolition, and the worst the pandemic could throw at it.

Now, reports the BBC, the Grade II* listed cinema is on the verge of reopening after a two-year restoration project, financed by more than £1.5 million of grant funding.

The building’s historic features have been preserved, with the ornamental front entrance, projection room and the original screen still all present and correct. 

Electric Palace Cinema
Photograph: Stella Fitzgerald

Back in 1911, the cinema’s first ever screening was silent docudrama The Battle of Trafalgar. Tickets came in at 2d for a wooden seat and 6d for a comfier spot in the middle of the auditorium. It’s reopening on April 8 with Jim Broadbent heist caper The Duke, with tickets priced at an equally reasonable £7 and all seats equally comfy (and not wooden).

‘With this last phase of work now complete, the auditorium is at its absolute best, retaining much of its original charm and unique character,’ says Trudi Hughes of Historic England. ‘I can't wait to see the cinema buzzing with visitors and sharing the magic of film, in this unique setting, as it has done for over a hundred years.’

It’s another sign that the country’s historic picturehouse are able to weather all kinds of challenges, fuelled by an avid cinemagoing public, resilient owners and public funding. Earlier this year, Birmingham’s 111-year-old The Electric reopened after a pandemic-enforced closure. 

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