Palace Theatre

430 London Road,
Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9LA

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DavidSimpson on January 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

As archivist at the Palace Theatre I can clarify its history of screen entertainment. Films were part of the original variety presentations – the opening advert proclaimed “Cinema & Vaudeville: The Best of Both” – but these ended in May 1913, when the theatre went over to weekly plays.

The projection box was at ground floor level, behind the stalls. Between the box and the outside front wall was the rewind room.

Gertrude Mouillot acquired the theatre in 1920. A former actress, and widow of wealthy theatrical entrepreneur Frederick Mouillot, I do not believe she hoped to open it as a cinema. It is my supposition that she converted the then-redundant box and rewind room to other uses, but had a alcove built into the back wall of the stage, so films could be shown using rear projection. In the 1920s these were occasional special presentations, mainly documentaries about adventures around the world.

In the early 1930s the theatre was converted into a full-time cinema, the Palace Cinema. But this only ran from 30th October 1932 until 25th March 1933.

The theatre returned to live shows, and the next film shows were not presented until May 2009, when local company The White Bus used the theatre for the Southend Film Festival, after which, the same month, they began their regular Sunday film shows with “Burn Before Reading”, starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The projection equipment and screen are brought in for each show; the digital projector is flown from the circle front.

Incidentally, the theatre opened as the New Palace Theatre. It became the Palace Theatre in March 1922.

There is a full history of the theatre on the Palace Theatre Club’s website at