In July this year it was announced that one of the last surviving picture palaces in the UK, Hyde Park Picture House, will get a multi-million-pound refurbishment. The hope is that this will make the building more sustainable, comfortable and accessible whilst still preserving its historic features. Built in 1914, the Grade II listed building still holds many of its original features such as an ornate balcony, external box office and is the only remaining gas lit cinema in the United Kingdom. At the time of its opening, it was branded as the “cosiest in Leeds” as it played movies from the time as well as newsreels delivering reports from the frontlines during the Great War.
Despite this, the cinema has seen various changes during its 100 plus years of being open, including the installation of “comfier” seating at the cost of reducing the capacity of the auditorium from around 400 to 275 people. They also salvaged eight projectors and famous Gaumont clock from various cinemas in Leeds before their closure. However, all efforts to keep the picture house up-to-date and competitive with rival cinema chains cannot be compared to the £3.6 million makeover which will give a whole new name to the local cinema.
The funding comes from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Leeds City Council as well as few independent investors and partners. The Picture House Project hopes for the re-opening to commence in June 2020. It will consist of the restored terrazzo foyer floor, a new café and bar so that customers are no longer forced to queue outside, disabled toilets and improved accessibility. They are also planning a second screen in the basement and will open the cinema’s archives to the public. Planning permission for the project was approved in June 2018 and work is scheduled to commence in June 2019 with the cinema closing for a year.
Paul Scholey, Chair of The Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House Ltd. board has stated that “as custodians of three of Leeds’ most historic cultural venues, we’re very proud of the vital role Hyde Park Picture House plays in making our city so special. With audiences growing year on year, it has been so important to put in place a plan which preserves this gem of a building. This week, thanks to the support of our partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund and backing from Leeds City Council, we feel more confident than ever that the future of this wonderful gas-lit cinema is secure.”
It’s clear that this renovation is a worthwhile investment for both Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds City Council. The re-opening will be an event celebrated across Leeds and West Yorkshire, as the refurbishment signifies much more than just a polished floor and another screen; it represents a part of history living on. So, whether you go for the history, the prices or just convenience, make sure you check it out and support the local business and become a part of its history.