Inside Yorkshire treasure the Hyde Park Picture House as it readies for redevelopment once again

Renowned for its history and architecture, the Hyde Park Picture House has long been regarded as among Yorkshire’s true treasures for culture.

Now, more than a century after its launch on the eve of the Great War, it is once again readying for redevelopment amid hopes of a stronger future.

Funding was announced last week to stimulate Yorkshire’s cultural recovery, with the Edwardian venue in Leeds among those to benefit.

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Now, after long-held project hopes were put on pause when doors closed last year, said the head of cinema, Wendy Cook, it is “wonderful” to see ambitions reignited.

Hyde Park Picture House which is due be completely refurbished with work starting in April you can now see the original screen and arch which had been covered for the last 60-odd years. Pictured is Projection Manager Mike Sharples on the cinema balcony. Image: Bruce Rollinson.

The project centres not only around the restoration of the cinema’s historic features, but on opening it up for communities and making it fit for modern times.

“Everyone loves the history of the picture house, it is so special,” Ms Cook said. “It’s beautiful, but they weren’t thinking about accessibility back when it was built in 1914.

“We are trying to preserve everything that’s really special about the building, while making it more accessible for an audience today.”

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Hyde Park Picture House Projection Manager Mike Sharples checking the 35mm projectors. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The Hyde Park Picture House, known for its independent, art-house and classic films, first opened in 1914 as the First World War began, serving a key role in its community.

In the mix with newsreels, propaganda and patriotic films were escapist dramas, said Ms Wood, and community cinemas became incredibly popular.

Classic images show crowds gathered in the street to meet a borrowed circus elephant and stuffed tiger in the 1950s, which were paraded outside to promote a film.

But while needs and wants have changed, the cinema has stayed the same. Lottery funding of £2.3m was secured to the Picture House Project 2018, as well as support from Leeds Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the British Film Institute and others.

Hyde Park Picture House

Now, as extra funding is assured, work can go ahead from April to open up accessibility, with ramps and an expanded foyer, and a new 52-seat basement screen.

Then there is the conservation of the historic building, from its ancient gas-lamps to the Burmantofts tiled façade along with the Grade ll listed lampposts, while its original terrazzo flooring, covered by carpet, will be revealed.

Funding

The cinema has featured in many productions, hosting Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren for filming of The Duke last January, while The Great Train Robbery was also filmed here.

“It’s been so very difficult these past 12 months, to not be able to offer something that can help people to feel better when something is so hard,” Ms Cook added.

“While we are sad we will not open in May it feels great to be able to say that when we do, we are going to have such better facilities and will be able to welcome more people.”

The Hyde Park Picture House was granted a £285,000 Capital Kickstart Award from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Its Picture House Project has been on hold for 10 months due to Covid-19, but it is hoped to be finished in May 2022.

Funding includes £5m for 33 independent cinemas, including £292,836 to The Light venues in Bradford and Sheffield, and £115,385 to Reel Cinemas in Hull and Wakefield.

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