The Ultimate Picture Place has been a cultural fixture in Oxford’s Cowley Road since its establishment in 1911 as East Oxford Picture Palace, the city’s very first purpose-built cinema. Fast forward more than a hundred years, past the times the compact art deco building stood empty and semi-derelict, occupied as a squat, used as a warehouse, then restored, and up to the present. It’s been operating in its current form as a vibrant independent cinema showing a wide variety of films for a few years, developing a loyal base of cinema goers. And now the opportunity has arisen to take it into community ownership, firmly cementing its community purpose.
Co-operative Futures helped the founders to think through the various options for legal structure, and then supported the group to register a Community Benefit Society (CBS), and apply for funding to cover some of the set-up costs of the business, as well as ad-hoc business and governance advice.
The group now intends to sell community shares in order to raise the capital to bring the business into community ownership. By buying community shares, investors will become members of the CBS, and can then take part in the democratic control of the business, on a one-member-one-vote basis.
Co-operative Futures will continue to support the group as it develops its share offer and refines its business plan. Whilst there’s lots more work still to do, the future is looking bright for The Ultimate Picture Palace. The team behind the community business is bursting with ideas to build on its current success, and become a real community resource for the vibrant and diverse community of Oxford’s Cowley Road.