Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Staff and supporters at the Electric Palace © Annie Mannion

Staff and supporters at the Electric Palace © Annie Mannion

Electric Palace saved by the fundraiser bell

With great sadness the Electric Palace recently announced that it had to close their doors for January. Due to the understandable concerns over the Omicron variant, January film bookings and venue hire were at an all-time low – consequently, for the time being it is not financially viable to open. However, all is not lost as HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths found out: they launched a fundraiser with the target of £15,000, and there they are – over the line. Yippee!

The Electric Palace is a very special venue, as many devotees will testify. Covid has hit so many small businesses where it hurt due to cancellations and social distancing; the cinema had to reduce its seating capacity from 40 to only 15 seats per screening. December is the month the hospitality and entertainment industries would normally expect bumper bums on seats to fill the coffers sufficiently to carry them through the quiet, cold months of January and February.

Not this year.


So they did what other small businesses before have done threw themselves on the generosity of Hastings-ites and launched an online fundraiser. Unsurprisingly, locals have come up trumps, yet again, and the cinema has been overwhelmed with their largesse; the target was £15,000 and they have just surpassed it. Which means there is a good possibility they can reopen later this year.

On launching the fundraiser owner and co-founder (with Rachel Pearson) of the Electric Palace Rebecca E Marshall said, “At the start of the pandemic we were carried through by funding from the BFI Cultural Support Fund, but it did not cater for such a terrible December in which we made huge losses due to all the Covid-related booking cancellations. Now we are left in a disastrous situation. Even standing closed has substantial outgoings, and we are under threat of permanent closure. To screen a film incurs licence fees and staffing costs that only generate further loss if badly attended.”

Electric Palace twentieth anniversary

Supporters outside the Electric Palace © Annie Mannion

Supporters outside the Electric Palace © Annie Mannion

It is particularly sad news as this is Electric Palace’s twentieth anniversary. It was started back in 2002 from a white room with a pot of red paint, basic equipment, rather uncomfortable chairs and boundless enthusiasm from its many supporters; it is now an established part of the fabric of the town, as besides its extraordinary programming it has been central to many Hastings events, traditions and festivals.

It is a small venue that packs a punch way above its weight; it offers a wide programme that makes for extraordinary experiences and memories, offering a remarkable slate of independent, art house, world cinema, classic and local filmmakers’ films  as well as hosting a programme of live music, comedy, theatre and club events. It can be hired for private screenings, events and parties. It can hold weddings with a celebrant, but are not licensed for weddings.

When I was first in Hastings and I didn’t really know anyone, I found it hugely welcoming a night in the cinema was a real treat. I have seen some remarkable films, particularly foreign ones: when I wanted a distraction I went to see an Icelandic film, Rams, on the night of the Brexit referendum – not exactly uplifting but memorable; film director Andrew Kötting rumbling down the central aisle as a straw bear in a performance piece accompanying one of his films, By Our Selves, as part of the Trash Cannes Festival; the beautiful, haunting Ida; and the touching Martin Parr film Turkey and Tinsel.

Plans for 2022 – Electric Palace’s 20th anniversary

As part of its 20th anniversary, the cinema hopes to be able to host celebrations and live events: auctions, Q&As, film quizzes, fancy dress parties, music nights and more.

It will also be adding opportunities for filmmakers at different career stages, including workshops and regular showcases for work in progress and will continue to champion F-rated films – films directed and/or written by women.

Not the end of the story

You can still see and support the Electric Palace albeit online. Drive my car, inspired by a Haruki Murakami short story, and given five stars by Guardian reviewer Peter Bradshaw, can be streamed until February 14 via the Modern Films virtual screening platform – a share of the online ticket price goes directly to the Electric Palace. There are no plans for other films yet, but keep an eye on their website.

To contribute the Electric Palace 

If you like film and enjoy going to the cinema, the Electric Palace is a very special place with a rich and colourful history, and it has brought so many people together, so do contribute to its survival. We want this special eccentric place to, hopefully, open its doors for another twenty odd years.

Previous HOT story when the Electric Palace was threatened with closure.

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Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 19:21 Wednesday, Jan 12, 2022 In: Film

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