96 High Street,
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In the small Northamptonshire town of Burton Latimer, just south of Kettering, the Electric Palace opened in August 1914. It had been built by the Burton Latimer Electric Palace Company, formed by local shoe manufacturers Joseph Westley and Henry Whitney and plumbing engineer A. G. Miller, on land off the High Street, behind what was then a coffee house and public hall.
Entrance was from the High Street, through an arch of semi-circular Romanesque design, constructed of segmented masonry. ‘THE PALACE’ was etched in the masonry above the arch.
The auditorium seated 500, and was 52ft long by 37ft wide. The rake was about three feet from screen to rear. The seats ranged from wooden benches at the front to red plush tip-up at the rear.
In 1922 the running of the cinema was taken over by David Strutley. He continued until it was sold to Alfred Watts in 1924. He ran the cinema until 1938, when his son Geoff took it over as Watts Cinemas Ltd (with the slogan “What’s on at Watts”).
By 1953 the cinema had 318 seats. In 1955 it was re-equipped with a wide screen, along with a refurbishment but, in 1960, it closed.
The building was taken over by Thomas Dodds and opened as the Rutland Bingo Hall. But this also closed, fairly soon, and the building was unused for several years.
In 1985 Ashley Whyatt bought the building for £50,000, carried out a major restoration and, in January 1986, opened it as the 182-seat Bentley cinema, an amalgamation of his name and that of his wife Bente. This was not successful, however, and the Bentley Cinema closed in 1987. The building was sealed up and fell into dereliction. It was damaged by fire in 1990.
Brian McFarlane, owner of the Ohio twin cinemas in Kettering, acquired the building in 1994. He moved the entrance, together with a small foyer, round to the other side of the building. The entrance was now from the car park off Churchill Way. The interior was halved, with the seating reduced to between 100 and 50 seats (sources vary). The seating décor and equipment were renewed and this cosy little cinema re-opened as the Ohio Cinema on 25th March 1994.
Sadly, this was not successful either, and it closed for good soon afterwards. In 1998 the building was remodelled and refurbished, and opened as an Italian restaurant, Giuseppe’s. It later became Vivo Italian restaurant.
Although it was blocked up, when I visited in July 2005, the passageway off the High Street was still in place, together with ‘THE PALACE’ etched in the stonework.
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