History of the UPP
The Oxford Picture Palace, as it was first known, was founded by Frank Stuart, licensee of the Elm Tree Tavern on the corner of Cowley Road and Jeune Street. It opened on 24 February 1911 and closed in 1917 when the manager was called up for war service. The building lay abandoned for many years before being taken over as a furniture warehouse.
In 1976, the cinema reopened as the Penultimate Picture Palace under the management of Bill Heine and Pablo Butcher. The cinema gained a reputation for showing an eclectic and provocative range of films that set the cinema apart from the mainstream theatres of the time. The Penultimate Picture Palace closed in 1994.
For a month in the summer of 1994, the building was squatted and run as a free cinema by the Oxford Freedom Network before being acquired by Saied Marham and his brother Zaid who spent £40,000 restoring the classical facade.They reopened as the Ultimate Picture Palace in 1997. In 2009, the cinema was briefly taken over by Jane and Philippa who made some much needed improvements before handing the cinema over to Becky Hallsmith in April 2011.
In 2011 (the cinema’s centenary year) local filmmaker Philip Hind made an excellent documentary about it: The Ultimate Survivor