Moving pictures first came to Oxford in 1896 but for years remained little more than a fairground sideshow. It would be fifteen years before Oxford’s first purpose built cinema was opened. The little picture palace on Jeune Street survived just six years, closing at the height of the First World War. It remained there, an abandoned relic, for fifty-nine years until 1976 when two film enthusiasts discovered the decaying building and set about restoring it. With a dramatic new look, including fabulous ‘Al Jolson’ hands on its classical facade, the Penultimate Picture Palace became famous for challenging censorship and screening controversial, unusual and banned films. Closure under acrimonious circumstances in 1994 led to an unexpected change in fortune when the again empty building was occupied by political activists and run as a free cinema and community cultural centre. Now reopened and revitalized the cinema lives on as the Ultimate Picture Palace.
The Ultimate Survivor tells the story of this remarkable institution through interviews with cinema historian Ian Meyrick; former owners and some former Oxford students including Ian Hislop (Private Eye; Have I got News for You) and Mark Thompson (BBC Director General) who recall the cinema in its 1970s heyday. The documentary also explores the infamous attempted screening in 1988 of A Clockwork Orange which brought the cinema, its owners and the eminent science fiction author Brian Aldiss into direct conflict with the film’s mercurial director Stanley Kubrick.
With an evocative soundtrack,cutting edge 3d visual effects and a compelling narrative, The Ultimate Survivor offers an imaginative and colourful look at a previously untold aspect of cinema history
The Ultimate Survivor received its world premiere at the 100th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Ultimate Picture Palace on 24th February 2011).