Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich, Essex, to reopen after two years of restoration work

The Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich is to re-open after a two-year restoration.
Credit: PA
The Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich is to reopen after a two-year restoration. Credit: PA

One of the UK's oldest cinemas will reopen its doors to the public following a two-year restoration project costing £1.5m.

The Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich, Essex, is a Grade II-listed venue that had been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2019 - until Historic England came to the rescue.

The money from The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been used to repair the original ornate plaster ceiling, replace part of the auditorium floor as well as remove asbestos.

The cinema has a long history, having been built in 1911, just two years after the introduction of the Cinematograph Act in 1909.

It was created by travelling showman Charles Thurston, who went on to build two more cinemas: the Empire Cinema in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, and the Palace Cinema in Norwich, Norfolk.

The Electric Palace sadly closed in 1956 and lay derelict for the next 16 years.

It escaped demolition, however, when in 1972 efforts to list it as a "building of sociological interest" were successful.

The Harwich Electric Palace Trust then took on ownership, reopening the cinema in 1981.

David Looser, chairman of the Harwich Electric Palace Trust, said he was "delighted" that the repair and restoration project was now complete and that the trust could reopen the cinema.

Heritage minister Nigel Huddleston MP said it was "fantastic to see that this historic venue has been brought back to life", adding: "It will be here for future generations to enjoy for many years to come."

Trudi Hughes, heritage at risk surveyor at Historic England, who has overseen the progress of the repair and restoration work, said: "The Electric Palace Cinema is a fascinating and very special survival.

"With this last phase of work now complete, the auditorium is at its absolute best, retaining much of its original charm and unique character.

"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 100 years."

The cinema will reopen on Friday, 8 April and another celebration will mark the announcement later in the year.