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Originally opened on 24 April 1911, the Electric Picturedrome was Dorchester’s first full-time cinema. Messrs P.J Dunne & Co. who owned other theatres in northern England acquired the Victoria Hall premises in Durngate Street and converted it into a picture house, with seating provided in stalls and circle levels.
When Mr Dunne passed away in 1920, the Dorchester Picturedrome was taken over by Mr Albany Ward who owned and managed several cinemas in the West Country. Extensive rebuilding and alterations were carried out, the architect commissioned was F.T. Maltby and the building work was carried out by Messrs Jesty & Baker who were based in Weymouth. The cinema re-opened as the Palace Theatre on 2nd November 1920 and the first film was “Possession” starring Harry Edwards. A number of guests attended the grand re-opening ceremony including the Mayor and Mayoress of Dorchester, Mrs Thomas Hardy and several members of the local Town Council. The Palace Theatre was fitted with the very latest projection equipment as well as full stage facilities.
In 1929, the Palace Theatre became part of the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT) circuit, which subsequently merged with the Gaumont British Corporation. It was finally closed by the Rank Organisation on 4 May 1957 and the last film shown here was “Kelly and Me” starring Van Johnson. The building was then used as a motor accessories store named NAF, and was subsequently demolished in the 1970’s. A block of flats for the elderly named Palace Court, was built on the site.
Happily, the Plaza Cinema in Trinity Street (opened in 1933) survives and continues to show the latest films to the residents of Dorset’s county town.
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