Bradford Media Museum's Widescreen Weekend opens as fans tour 'immaculate' collection

The large objects room at Bradford's Media Museum. Picture: Simon Hulme.
The large objects room at Bradford's Media Museum. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Bradford's Media Museum has opened a festival championing the wonders of widescreen entertainment - and visitors have enjoyed its "immaculate" archive collection.

Widescreen Weekend, festival of spectacular movies and cinema technologies started today with the news that Pictureville, the museum’s acclaimed theatre which is at the centre of the event, will also be the name of its new independent cinema operation.

Film lovers travel from around the world to attend the annual festival for films screened in 70mm and 35mm formats, such as opening night’s Ready Player One, musicals including The Sound of Music and West Side Story, plus historical epic Ben-Hur on closing night.

-> All you need to know about Widescreen Weekend - what's on and who is appearing
Visitors have the chance to go into the archives to see its "unrivalled" collection of equipment.

They will also be among the first to hear about the new cinema operation’s name Pictureville and tagline Where Cinema Lives.

Head of cinema operation Kathryn Penny said: “Pictureville, already renowned as a unique theatre capable of screening a huge variety of film formats, is synonymous with the highest quality presentation of films - especially with our Widescreen Weekend delegates as well as our regular audiences.

"We think it is a mark of great cinema in Bradford, and we will be screening films in all three of our cinemas, including the biggest IMAX screen in West Yorkshire, under the Pictureville brand.”

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INDY Cinema Group was recently announced as the programmers for the museum’s operation, which will return to being fully independent when the five-year contract with Picturehouse comes to an end on October 31.

The festival, which lasts until Sunday, provides another chance for the museum to offering enthusiasts its Insight tour - where visitors can see parts of the collection not currently on show in the public areas of the museum as temporary exhibitions change every three to four months.

Toni Booth, the museum's associate curator of film, showed a small group around the archives this afternoon.

She said: "Widescreen Weekend's been going for so long now, it's like okay, we've got these enthusiasts in the building, these are exactly the kind of people who are going to love coming down and seeing these collections, these objects and engaging with them, talking about them.

"Because a lot of them, as well, will have worked with some of it. I've had ex-projectionists and they'll say, 'Oh yes, we used that in the 1970s' or whatever. So it's terrific to be able to tie it up each bit of what in the museum is going on, to make it a more whole experience for people.

"And then they can go away and say, 'That's fantastic', and tell all their friends and then they'll come back again, hopefully."

Speaking about the museum's collection, she added: "In terms of the technical collection and the equipment collection, in our subject areas I would say it's unrivalled in this country. There are other places that do different bits of what we do, there's a museum down in Exeter for example which looks more at pre-cinema, that kind of area, the British Film Institute really focus on the films and marketing.

"It's just places overseas [that have similar collections] - there's a place in Paris, the Cinémathèque Française, there are places in Italy and the USA as well, but in this country I don't think there's anywhere that matches up."

Objects included in collection are daguerreotypes - the first commercially successful photographic process - and a Thomas Edison Kinetoscope, an early motion picture device which allowed viewers to see through a hole in the top of a wooden box in the late 19th century.

Equipment from the mid-1920s created by John Logie Baird - inventors of the mechanical television - is also included in the archives after he donated it to the Science Museum in London.

"He made alternations so people couldn't copy it," said Ms Booth.

Mark Lyndon travelled from London to attend Widescreen Weekend, and has been visiting the museum since 1996 as a fan of its cinerama feature - on which images are simultaneously placed from three synchronized 35mm projectors on to a huge, deeply curved screen.

Speaking about the tour, he said: "It was terrific. I went on a film tour in Paris, but this one is immaculate - absolutely, gleamingly immaculate."

The tours take place every Wednesday and the museum can also put them on at the request of groups.

Other highlights of Widescreen Weekend include guests such as former head of Merchant Ivory productions and producer of hits such as Howards End, Donald Rosenfeld, director of Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard, who grew up in Otley, and a live recording of the popular film review podcast Girls on Film.

Ms Penny added: “We’re really looking forward to this opportunity, developing a greater integration between film screenings and the museum programme, as well as making even more people aware of the quality of our cinemas.”

A new Picturerville membership scheme, starting on 1 November, will cost £30 for the year, with benefits that include two free tickets (IMAX premium seats included, worth up to £30), £2 off other cinema tickets, as well as 10% off food and drink, and in the museum shop.