A project by
The Hyde Park Picture House
The Heritage Lottery Fund
Celebrating & renewing
our historic cinema
The Picture House Project.
A bright future ahead.
103 years on from our opening night, the Hyde Park Picture House is embarking on an exciting new chapter.
Thanks to backing from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as continued support from Leeds City Council and our valued Friends and partners across the city, our Grade II listed cinema is being renewed.
The Picture House Project means looking backwards as well as forwards. It’s about celebrating our rich heritage as we ensure a bright future ahead. It’s about protecting and preserving our historic features, while at the same time making the building more sustainable, more comfortable and more accessible - as we strive to be the best place to experience film in Leeds.
Early feasibility study
The Hyde Park Picture House commissions an earlier feasibility study, exploring the potential of development, in particular, the possibility of transforming the cinema’s basement into a second screen. The results confirm the potential for expansion.
Leeds Grand Theatre & Opera Ltd (the parent company of the Picture House), together with cinema management, mark the milestone by committing to look into ways to secure the building for the future.
Friends pledge support
The Friends of Hyde Park Picture House pledge their support and funding, to commission a new feasibility study, which, if successful, would form the basis of a funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
DCA Consultants, Adam Richards Architects and Buro Happold Engineers are appointed to work on the new feasibility study, which will lead to significant structural surveying, cost estimates, audience consultation work and RIBA Stage 1 design proposals.
Buro Happold, who worked on the cinema’s feasibility study, are re-appointed to work through the project’s development phase and beyond. Christine Lowry is assigned as the lead engineer for the project, working out of Buro Happold’s Leeds office.
Glaswegian based practice Page\Park are appointed as architects for the project, based on their impressive track record of working with historic arts venues including Glasgow’s Theatre Royal. Eildh Henderson is assigned as the lead project architect.
Further appointments to the design team are confirmed, including business and activity planners DCA Consultants, quantity surveyors Gardiner & Theobald and project management support from Turner & Townsend.
A fundraising group is formed, consisting of staff, volunteers, Friends and partners. Consultant Anna Scrine facilitates a session to help form a fundraising strategy and a plan for raising additional money.
Structural surveys are carried out at the Picture House, including a 3D building survey, topographical survey, CCTV drainage & utilities. These are crucial in allowing engineers and architects to progress with the next stage of design work.
Friends & board meetings
Lead architect Eildh Henderson formally presents to a meeting of the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House, as well as the Board of the Picture House, updating them on the project’s progress, as well as sharing draft design proposals for feedback.
HLF mid-stage review
The design team are to formally meet with the Heritage Lottery Fund, to update them on the progress of the project’s development phase. Updates will include prospective building works, conservation plans, as well as business and activity preparations.
Following consultation and conversations with the relevant planning and heritage bodies, the project aims to secure planning approval, before formal submission to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the spring for Round 2 approval.
Additional funding for the scheme secured.
HLF round 2 approval
The Project formally submits an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for Round 2 approval, allowing the works to commence.
Full project tendering to begin, relating to capital and refurbishment works.
Full building works to be carried out, resulting in a period of cinema closure - during which time the cinema will continue to operate across other venues, with a touring film programme.
Following the completion of capital and refurbishment works, the cinema will re-open, and continue a programme of heritage related activity for the years to follow.
Protecting and preserving our historic cinema
Exploring, celebrating and conserving the cinema’s rich heritage lies at the very heart of this project. From refurbishing our unique gas-lights and Edwardian plasterwork, to maintaining our ability to project and share traditional analogue film formats - the project will ensure our historic Grade II listed cinema is preserved for many years to come.Discover more
As the only remaining gas-lit cinema in the UK, our nine gas lamps are a key heritage feature. As well as refurbishing them we’ll also help preserve the skills required to maintain them, ensuring they keep flickering in our auditorium long into the future.
Elements of the cinema need urgent help to reinstate their former glory. From the ornate plasterwork and iconic clock in the auditorium, to exterior façade and original terrazzo tiles, we’ll sensitively clean, restore and refurbish features throughout the building.
Two 1960s Cinemeccanica projectors and a well-trained projection team enable our continued screening of film from 35mm prints. We’ll ensure equipment and skills are properly maintained, but also increase projection room tours to help share the history and tradition of film.
A building open to everyone
A fundamental aim is for the Picture House to become a space that is truly accessible for all. This means implementing step-free access to all major parts of the cinema, providing better facilities including accessible toilets and working hard to remove non-physical barriers too - so that all audiences, regardless of their background, feel safe, comfortable and welcome in our building.Discover more
Because of its age, our building isn’t adequately accessible. Steps at the main entrance mean people in wheelchairs enter through an awkward side entrance, and none of our toilets are step-free. We’re going to change this, creating step-free access to most of the building.
New toilets will be wheelchair accessible and offer baby changing facilities. Improvements will be made to our subtitling and audio description screenings, and a new café/bar area will put an end to early arrivals waiting outside in the cold.
A safe space.
Access barriers aren’t always physical. For visitors with autism or dementia, those who are deaf or blind, or who are old or young - going to the cinema can sometimes be a challenging experience. We’ll ensure these audiences are consulted and considered, so that our building welcomes everyone.
Creating the best film watching experience in Leeds
Whether you’re into world cinema, timeless classics, or the latest award winner – we’ll be able to bring you more of what you love. A second screen in the basement will mean twice as many films, and a programme with even more variety. And with the refurbishment of our existing auditorium, including upgraded projection technologies and improvements in comfort, we’ll be the best place in Leeds for you to experience your new favourite film.Discover more
A second screen.
Converting our existing basement into a permanent second screen seating 40-60 people will mean a programme with twice as many showings, and significantly more specialised film titles. That means more of the best foreign language, documentary and independent films being screened in Leeds.
Our main auditorium will receive much-needed refurbishment, maintaining character and heritage while improving comfort. Environmental performance will improve thanks to sophisticated new ventilation, allowing the cinema to be the right temperature whatever the weather.
Our aim is to be a historic cinema but also a truly modern one, so we’ll maintain our 35mm projectors while upgrading our digital ones too. Investment in our sound system, cinema screen and dedicated team of projectionists means you’ll be seeing movies in their best possible light.
A picture house that works for its community
With a building that’s open for longer, more accessible and able to provide more multifunctional space, we’ll be able to do more to serve our local community. From local schools and universities, to charities and community groups; this project will allow us to better fulfil one of our core aims: ‘for the cinema to be seen as a progressive cultural organisation, a safe space and an essential hub within our community’.Discover more
A new café/bar.
Made possible by an extension along the long north side of the building, this will transform the way the cinema interacts with its community, quite literally opening up the building to provide a safe, welcoming space people can pop-in, hang-out and call their own.
Our new spaces will be multifunctional. New breakout spaces will be available for use by the local community for workshops and meetings, and our new basement screen will support education and dialogue by additionally accommodating lectures, presentations and discussions.
We’ll create new partnerships to help us reach new audiences, developing learning programmes with schools to engage young peple, hosting more reminisce screenings for people who are older, and doing much more to involve Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic audiences.
The story so far
Backed by the friends
Meet the engineers
Meet the architects
Explore our history
The gas lights
The main auditorium
The stained glass window
Original fire hydrant
The manager’s office
The ticket booth
The terrazzo tiles
The 35mm projectors
One of the cinema’s most unique and significant heritage features are our nine gas lights, located within our auditorium and foyer.
Originally installed as a form of ‘modesty lighting’ to prevent any inappropriate back-seat behaviour, they’re now a symbol of the cinema’s Edwardian origins and continue to be lit every single day.
While the lamps have been well maintained over the years, they’re now in need of extensive restoration in order to ensure they can continue flicking in our aisles for many years to come.
The main auditorium
The main auditorium is not exactly as it was in 1914 but we are fortunate that no extreme alterations have been made. Many objects such as the clock, the proscenium arch and the lighting fittings were installed at different points in the cinema’s long life - each referencing quite specific historical eras.
Many elements of the auditorium remain unchanged from 1914, including the location of the gas lamps and the ornate plasterwork that decorates the ceiling and front of the balcony.
Located in the foyer, where the snack kiosk currently stands, is the remnants of a grand fireplace which existed during the cinema’s early years. Once responsive for providing the bulk of the cinema’s heating, the fireplace would have warmed both the foyer and auditorium behind it.
Sadly we have no photos of this original fireplace but we do have a drawing that helps fill in the details.
The main feature in the foyer is the large, grand, wooden staircase, which leads to the balcony and ladies toilets. Many years ago the wooden bannisters were painted, but in the 1990s a dedicated team of staff stripped it back by hand, to reveal the beautiful wood beneath.
The art-deco clock you see to the right of the screen has sat proudly in our auditorium since the 1950s. Prior to that it lived in the Gaumont cinema in Leeds City Centre – which is now the O2 Academy. Len Thompson, the cinema’s general manager at the time, saved the clock when the Gaumont sadly closed – along with some seats, and toilet signs.
The stained glass window
The window next to the staircase is home to one of our decorative glass panels, an original featuring dating back to 1914. Close inspection reveals it is part stained glass and part hand painted.
For many of the cinema’s staff it’s their favourite part of the building – particularly during the summer months, when morning sunlight streams through the panels and casts a colourful beam of light gracefully across the stairs.
The fire hydrant
While today we’re fully fitted with contemporary fire-fighting equipment, none of that makes quite the same statement as our original fire hydrant, located by the main doors.
The existence of such an object has significant historical relevance. The 1909 Cinematograph Act, which led to the creation of the UK’s first purpose build cinemas, was passed in response to a number if disastrous fires that took place in temporary exhibition spaces. The flammable nature of early nitrate film meant that cinemas were at greater risk from fire than typical public buildings, leading to extensive equipment like this hydrant being installed.
Luckily the hydrant has never been used in a fire-fighting situation, but following a test a number of years ago, we know that it is still functional. And since the water comes straight from the mains, the force of the hose is quite impressive, and enough to throw the user to the ground!
The manager’s office
A section of the Picture House rarely seen by visitors is its large basement – which spans the entire footprint of the building. This is where the original manager’s office was located, with the manager’s phone - used to communicate with staff upstairs - still hung on the wall.
The reason this office was located in the basement and not above ground, was due to there being even less space on the upper floors than there is today. When bulky electrical generators and projection equipment were removed from the room adjacent to the projection booth, the manager’s office was positioned there instead - which is where it remains to this day.
Our ornamental lamppost is an iconic part of the Picture House and like the main building, it is also Grade II listed. Originally a gas-lit, the lamp is now powered by electricity.
It was manufactured by W. MacFarlane & Co, also known as the Saracen Foundry, renowned at the time as the most important manufacturer of ornamental ironwork in Scotland. And as part of The Picture House Project, we hope to restore some of the more intricate detailing on the lamp, and helping to return it back to it’s former splendour.
The ticket booth
The small ticket booth at the front has been home to the cinema’s box office for many years.
However during periods of the cinema’s long history, the box office was brought inside, to where the kiosk is currently located, to prevent patrons from having to queue outside.
The Picture House Project aims to preserve the historic ticket booth, while the day-to-day function of a box office may be moved to a more suitable location.
The terrazzo tiles
Located at the foot of the cinema’s main doors are our terrazzo tiles, complete with beautiful marble and granite mosaic detailing. Considering the many feet it’s seen over the years it’s in remarkably good shape, though time has been kinder to some sections than others. Green sections of the design are almost worn away, and as part of The Picture House Project, we’ll be keen to restore and preserve as much of this tiling as we can.
Thanks to a recent donation from the extended family of the cinema’s first manager, Arthur Child, the Picture House now has original copies of all of its historic log books – from the year it opened in 1914, through to the Second World War.
Within these pages, there are details of every single film that played, as well as attendance figures, money taken (including on chocolate and cigarettes) and the weather each and every day.
The books are now safely stored in the cinema’s archive, based at the West Yorkshire Archive service.
The 35mm projectors
The cinema’s two Cinemeccanica 35mm projectors are still located in the cinema’s projection room, and continue to be operated on a weekly basis. Manufactured in the 1960s, they were originally installed at the Odeon cinema in Grimsby, and then the Lounge in Headingly, before finding their home at the Hyde Park Picture House in 2005.
The machines have been well maintained over the years by a team of trained projectionists, and allow the cinema to project a large number of classic and archive films that many other cinemas can now no longer screen.
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