You Reel-ly Got Me - June Meeting

Friday, 13 January 2017 § 0

The lovely Susan introduced us to Wendy Cook, General Manager of the Hyde Park Picture House who entertained us with her talk on the history of the cinema. 

The first cinema opened in Pittsburgh in 1905. This new art form was very popular and films were toured around the country and shown in lots of temporary venues. At this stage the nitrate film stock was very flammable and a lot of heat was generated from the bright lights needed to project the picture so there were a lot of fatal fires. 

In the UK in 1909 the Cinematograph Act was passed – this stipulated building codes such as the projector being enclosed (there are metal shutters at Hyde Park). Some nitrate film stock still exists today but you need a licence and it needs to be kept in specific conditions. 

In cinema’s heyday in the 40’s Leeds had over 50 cinemas. Only Hyde Park and Cottage Road remain from this time and earlier. Some cinema building no longer exist others have been repurposed e.g. Majestic, Brotherhood of Pursuits & Pastimes, Mikes Carpets in Armley

Keep checking as they do guided walks around the old cinema sites of Leeds

They incomplete records about the Hyde Park Picture House – they celebrated their 100th Birthday on 7thNovember 2014 but later found out it should have been on 2md November after the Log Book of the manager from 1914-1957 was found in a garage which was being cleared out. 

They now put any material found into the West Yorkshire Archive (see for more info) as well as submitting details of current events. 

When the cinema opened in 1914 there were just silent movies. A sound system was installed in the 1930’s.  Over the years there have been various other alterations to the cinema.

The décor on the balcony is original but the capacity today is smaller than when the cinema first opened. 
The tiling on the floor at the front of the building reflects the original design
There used to be a roaring fire where the kiosk is now 
There is a stained and painted glass window 
They still have working Gas Lamps and are the only cinema in the UK (possibly the world) to do so. 
The clock dates from the 60’s and originally came from the cinema that was housed in the site of the current O2 Academy. Lots of salvaging from skips took place as old cinemas closed down.
At one point there was a glass canopy down the side of building on Brudenell Road. 

The cinema played an important role in the wars – for general communications and keeping up people’s spirits

The cinema has had a colourful history and has nearly closed several times. The Friends of Hyde Park Picture House formed in 1984 and together with the manager in 1989 were instrumental in persuading Leeds City Council to buy the cinema from the Robbins chain under whom they feared for the cinema’s future. The cinema became part of Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Limited. This independent company (also a registered charity) within the council is dedicated to preserving, and securing the future of three of Leeds most historically and culturally significant venues, the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House, The City Varieties and the Hyde Park Picture House. 

The cinema is a Grade II listed building. The lamppost outside is also Grade II listed but is no longer a gas lamp.  

Although representing a price of cinema history, the Picture House has kept up with the times and can show Digital films and 35mm.                       
The cinema shows around 330 films a year. Aim to have a varied programme which covers international releases as well as those with links to local events and community 

They have speakers in to give context to films e.g. Amnesty international 

The cinema is a popular topic for Leeds Academics and a popular tourist destination for viewers of ‘First of the Summer Wine’ 
They have had a proposal take place there with a private screening of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ as the backdrop
They have held a Humanist Wedding there 

There are exciting and ambitious plans afoot to keep the cinema going for the next 100 years - a submission has been made for a lottery grant to fund conversion of the basement to a second screen and a café. 

In the more immediate future, go and see a film. 
See for details of the programme including special events. 

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