Historic Yorkshire cinema to be given new lease of life as banqueting hall

Proposals that would bring a large city centre building, originally constructed to be one of Bradford’s first cinemas, back into use have been approved.

The Scala Cinema, at the junction of Shipley Airedale Road and East Parade, was built in 1913, and has been described as a “very significant survivor” of the early days of cinema construction.

After it shut as a cinema, the building became the parish hall of the neighbouring St Mary’s Church, but the building has been vacant for a number of years.

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St Mary’s Church was converted into a banqueting and events venue called Regency Hall in 2017, and in late 2020 an application to extend this use to the vacant church hall building, now Grade II listed, was submitted to Bradford Council.

The former Scala cinema in Bradford

That application, which would create an extra 340 square metres of banqueting space, has now been approved.

The 700 seat cinema closed in 1922 – before “talkies” were introduced. It was then converted into a hall for the neighbouring church.

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Despite not having been used as a cinema for a century, the building is believed to have many of its original features, including an alcove at the back – supposedly built so someone could keep watch to prevent cinema goers from getting up to no good on the back rows.

There have been previous plans to demolish the building, but the latest application, by Usha Parmer, said the latest plans would “ensure a landmark of Bradford once again is occupied and used. It will not only serve as an overflow area for the neighbouring hall but also as an independent hall for smaller functions.”

There are 67 parking spaces at the site, and new links would be created between the church and church hall buildings. Office space would also be created in the building.

Bradford Council conservation officer Jon Ackroyd said: “The former cinema has been disused for many years but retains much evidence of its former use and original internal features.

“The projector rooms remain with apertures to the main hall for image projection. The tiered balcony remains, with an alcove at the back, allegedly for surveillance of the back rows by the priest or church elder.

“The proposed uses appear acceptable in heritage terms and will ensure the building has a purpose and is renovated.”

Planning officers said the works would “significantly enhance the appearance and character of this listed building.”

They said there was adequate parking in the church car park.