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Hyde Park Picture House
Hyde Park Picture House
Hyde Park Picture House - one of the oldest surviving cinemas in the UK

It survives in an age of multiplexes, purveying Hollywood blockbusters at top volume to cinema-goers munching on huge buckets of popcorn.

The Hyde Park Picture House may seem like an anachronism to some, but to others, it's a gem and a truly wonderful place to watch films.

Built in 1914, it is one the oldest surviving cinemas in the country.

Despite being single-screen, it continues to attract moviegoers old and new.

The cinema retains many of its original features from the decorated balcony to the external ticket booth at the front of the building.

BBC Leeds talked to manager Wendy Cook about the history, the grandeur of the building and how they operate in the modern world.

"Along with the Cottage Road cinema, we are the only survivors of the old-style, single-screen cinema left in Leeds. This is down from between 60 and 70 at cinema's peak in the pre-war years."

"Multiplexes have their advantages, we know that - but we offer a different experience. You're sampling a film in a living, breathing slice of history. We know many of our regular customers and that personal touch is priceless."

"As retail returns to an emphasis on being local, we're already there. We're a part of the community. People can become a part of our organisation with the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House, and we have film clubs for the enthusiasts."

"First time visitors are always impressed by the auditorium and the building as a whole - it's a connection with the past, that people love."

"While original features have been retained if possible, like the ticket booth, improvements have been made. Comfier seating means the capacity is down to 275, instead of nearly 400. Also the kiosk has replaced a fireplace which obviously was very welcoming on cold, winter nights."

The cinema was taken into council ownership in the early 1990s, and is now part of a semi-autonomous group of entertainment venues in the city alongside the Grand Theatre and the City Varieties.

Hyde Park Picture House balcony
You too can snog on the back row like your Grandad!

"The council involvement makes us a lot more secure but we still have to try and keep our heads above water. There's a balancing act between the arthouse and independent cinema that people know us for and the more mainstream stuff that puts bums on seats and keep the coffers full."

"As the only arthouse screen in the city we are aware of putting on a programme that includes the best there is to offer but we're not able to have obscure films on every day playing to a small handful of people - it's a fine line, really!"

"We're always on the lookout for new partnerships and new promotions to keep things fresh. Occasionally we'll have musical nights that are linked to certain films or genres and that opens up the space to people who might not have been through the door before."

"Here in the middle of Hyde Park, we attract plenty of students as you'd expect but there are plenty who get to their third year and are completely unaware of our existence. However we put on screenings for film societies and turn up at the Freshers Fayres to let them know that we're here."

"One thing we're proud of, is our involvement with the Young People's Film Festival which is programmed by and for kids. They basically take over the building, decorating it for their purposes and I think it gives them a sense of the magic of cinema."

As a Grade II listed building, the Hyde Park should be with us for many years to come. It is the only gas lit cinema remaining in use in the UK and even the ornate gas lamp outside the entrance is also Grade II listed.

It's amazing to think you could be watching films in the same auditorium as your great-grandparents.......although without the thick fug of cigarette smoke and without asking the bloke in front to take his hat off!

Take a look around this architectural gem: Hyde Park Picture House gallery




SEE ALSO
Cinema saved in last-minute deal
28 Jul 05 |  West Yorkshire

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