BRIDPORT'S Electric Palace Theatre is up for sale.

Owner Peter Hitchin has decided to call it a day after running the entertainment venue for the past seven years.

It goes on the market with Savills in September with a price tag of £550,000.

Mr Hitchin said: “It’s been an enjoyable business to own but it’s a ‘lifestyle’ business which needs new enthusiasm and commitment. I’m looking for the right person or company to take it over.

“I feel it would be beneficial for the Electric Palace if a younger person or persons took the business to a second stage.”

He stressed that it was still business as usual, with a programme including big name musicians, actors, comedians and live screenings continuing to draw in audiences from far afield.

“We have a very full programme lined up, including the Bridport Pantomime Players in February and their show is always very well supported. We also have bookings for weddings and these will not be affected.”

Mr Hitchin, who owns Symondsbury Manor, bought the derelict art deco building in 2005. He stepped in after the former operators, Reel Time Entertainment Ltd, closed the venue in 1999. They maintained the building was unsafe because of concerns over the balcony area.

These issues have now been addressed comprehensively.

“I had a full structural overhaul, which has been completed and signed off, so I hope a local consortium would feel confident to own and manage the Electric Palace,” Mr Hitchin said.

“It’s a wonderful venue, with real soul and vitality. When my daughter, Gabrielle, was managing the Electric Palace, it was so successful that Ian Gillan of Deep Purple nominated it as the best small venue in the UK.

“We almost won but were beaten by a very hip London venue. I say this because I believe the Palace has increased Bridport’s profile in the music and comedy world.”

He said he has had interest in the Electric Palace from a number of companies but added: “I’m in no hurry to sell it. I’d like it to continue as it is, with an even more exciting programme of events, if that’s possible.”

The Electric Palace was purpose-built and opened on June 14 1926 by Bridport Mayor Mr F Weeks. The first show starred Gloria Swanson in Madame Sans-Gene.

At the time, the Bridport News reported: “Monday was opening night and the townspeople gave their support solidly to the new enterprise, so much so, that although the new building can accommodate 500, a great many had to be refused admission, but it could not be helped.

“These good people, however, have since given their patronage and can almost be looked upon as regular patrons now.

“Everyone spoke in praise of the beautiful interior of the building and the wonderful clarity in which the pictures were shown.”

The theatre still retains its art deco feel, with a cavernous interior and a unique set of murals painted by local artist George Biles in the 1920s in the foyer.

Under Mr Hitchin’s ownership, the Electric Palace now features a covered foyer area, used as a brasserie with free wi-fi, and two bars, one of which is in the auditorium now decorated with original artwork by top local contemporary artists.

Prestigious acts appear at the venue on a regular basis. Over the next few months, the programme includes live screenings of National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare company shows, comedy from Henning Wehn and Al Murray, music by From The Jam with Bruce Foxton, Steve Howe from Yes, Doctor Feelgood and a one-man play by the actor Simon Callow.