Photo gallery: Michael Palin makes appearance in Southwold to launch new era for tiny cinema

It may seem like a small player in an industry dominated by giant multi-screen cinemas.

But a tiny picture house in Southwold has proved that size isn't everything – especially when charming the heart of one of TV's national treasures.

Tonight (Thursday August 23), The Electric Picture Palace welcomed comedy star-turned TV presenter Michael Palin to provide the official opening of its new �110,000 revamp.

It comes just two months since the cinema marked a double anniversary, celebrating 100 years since a cinema was first opened in Southwold, and 10 years since the Electric Picture Palace was re-established in the town.

Cinema house director John Bennett, former Daily Telegraph journalist John Miller and rector of Southwold, the Rev Simon Pitcher, all gave short speeches to usher in the new era for the 70-seater venue on Blackmill Road.

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But the 200-strong crowd saved their adulation for the Monty Python star who told of his joy at returning to a community close to his heart. He said: 'Southwold is a very special place for me because it has been such a big part of my life, either coming here for holidays, meeting my wife here for the first time, or my parents retiring here. It is a marvellous magical place to come down back to.

'10 years ago when I first opened the cinema here I thought it was beyond optimistic that it would succeed, but it has been terrific that they have managed to keep it going.'

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The new two-storey extension consists of a new-look foyer, toilets, an office, a film archive and private screening room. The project also created two extra seats for moviegoers.

In July, the cinema staged its first film festival – showcasing 16 movies from the Ealing Studios which was renowned for its classic dramas, and particularly its comedies, from the early 1930s through to the late 1950s.

Mr Bennett said he was delighted to be playing host to Mr Palin who was the special guest at the cinema's launch in 2002.

'It has been a lot of work for such a little building and there has been a lots of last-minute decorating by my wife Jane, but we are thrilled to have Michael back,' he said.

'The new extension will enable a lot more space for people to mingle and we will have a caf� where we can do food.

'But it will also have a lot more screening room, so we can provide more private screenings. It will also give us more room for our equipment and DVDs.'

The town got its first taste for the silver screen in 1912 when the Electric Picture Palace opened on York Road.

Mr Bennett retained the name when he reopened the town's new cinema in 2002 after converting an old stables and a cart shed on Blackmill Road.

Since then, it has screened more than 1,000 films, sold 60,000 tickets and hosted significant events including the premier of romantic comedy Love Actually.

• For more information, call the Electric Picture Palace box office on 07815769565.

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