The Palace Cinema
As with most suburbs, there were many cinemas in what is now Ealing in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Now only two survive, and the finest of these is, without much doubt, the renovated Himalaya Palace on South Road, Southall.
The first cinema on this site was the second to be opened in Southall. It was first called The New Paragon Palace, which opened in 1912 and was known as a 'Cinematograph Theatre'. Mr G J Weller was the first manager. It was relatively small in size, having only 300 seats. By the late 20s, with the advent of the talkies, demand was expected to rise and the existing building was deemed to be too small. United Picture Theatres Ltd took over ownership at about this time.
In 1929 the building, with the distinctive Chinese style exterior and art deco interior, opened to the public. The architect was George Coles, who had designed many other cinemas. It was now known as The Palace. In the 60s it was renamed The Godeon, then the Godina and in 1972 the Liberty Cinema. In this period it began to show exclusively Indian films, which was a logical development because more of Southall's population had their roots in the Indian sub-continent. After 1972, no English language films were shown, except briefly in 1980.
The architectural merit of the building was finally recognised in 1974 by the GLC's Historic Buildings Board. This was important, as cinemas throughout London were falling into disuse, and either being closed or being used for other purposes such as bingo or snooker halls. It was eventually officially listed as a Grade II building.
However, the cinema was running into financial difficulties, and fewer people were visiting. In 1978, weekly takings were £4000; in 1980 only £400. It was therefore forced to close in 1981. There were now no cinemas in Southall. Instead, this building was used as an indoor market and began trading in 1982. By the 90s it was no longer used as a market, and its physical state had deteriorated to the point that it was now semi-derelict.
This might well have been the end of the story. Demolition might have followed and shops erected - yet it was a protected building. It was bought by businessman, Mr Surjit Phander, who had seen films there when it had been a cinema, and realised its potential. However, the next few years were difficult. There were problems over health and safety during renovation, one workman died during the reconstruction, and there was a fire in 1998. Finally, with the help of a £113,500 grant from English Heritage, the building was once more a cinema.
The cinema reopened on 14 September 2001 as the Himalaya Palace. It is now a three-screen cinema and shows (at time of writing) mainly Bollywood epics.
We would like to thank Dr Jonathan Oates, borough archivist and local history librarian, for the use of his information.