THE Hyde Park Picture House, Britain’s last remaining gas-lit cinema, is to close its doors next month for a major redevelopment of the Grade II listed cinema in Brudenell Road, Leeds.
Work will begin at the end of February after a £2.3 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant was secured for the Picture House Project, enabling the iconic building to undergo essential repair and restoration work, alongside the creation of new accessible facilities and a second screen.
From mid-February, the cinema will go On The Road for a film programme that will run throughout 2020, presenting screenings of new independent films, documentaries, cult classics and family favourites, working in tandem with such Leeds venues as Leeds University Union, Heart in Headingley, The Brunswick and the Brudenell Social Club.
On Tuesday this week, Hyde Park’s head of cinema, Wendy Cook, and Mark Johnston, of project architects Page Park, delivered an update to partners and stakeholders, detailing the ways in which the cinema’s unique heritage features will be repaired, most significantly the nine gas lights.
Wendy Cook said: “Hyde Park Picture House’s story has been over 100 years in the making, shaped by hundreds of thousands of film lovers. Having the opportunity to safeguard the cinema for another 100 years is both a privilege and a pleasure.”
At Tuesday’s event, Francis Lee, the BAFTA-nominated writer and director of the 2017 Yorkshire film God’s Own Country, was confirmed as the Hyde Park’s inaugural patron.
Lee, who grew up on his family’s farm at Soyland, Calderdale, is an avid supporter of the Leeds cinema. His new film, Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, is set for release later this year.
“I’m delighted to be the patron of Hyde Park Picture House,” he said. “It’s a huge honour. The Picture House team have been very supportive of me from the beginning of my career as a film maker; our association beginning in 2012 when they screened my very first short film.
“Hyde Park Picture House is a vital part of the cultural identity of not just Leeds, but the surrounding area too, offering an incredible mix of cinema, community involvement and support to local film makers. I’m very excited to see how the Picture House continues to evolve and grow.”
Meanwhile, sponsors Kirkstall Brewery will brew an exclusive beer with the cinema this spring as part of the Hyde Park’s community fundraising campaign, with 20 per cent from all sales going towards the project.
Under the Picture House Project, the 1914 cinema will undergo essential conservation work to the façade and existing auditorium, alongside the creation of new facilities, including a larger foyer space and the aforementioned second screen, to be located in the basement.
The project will allow the cinema’s rich history to be explored and celebrated through archival screenings, heritage tours and educational workshops, helping to tell the story of film making and film watching in the region.
In addition to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, the project has received “significant backing” from Leeds City Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation, alongside funding support from Film Hub North, Leeds Inspired, the Pilgrim Trust, the Gwyneth Forrester Trust, the Co-op Community Fund and Friends of the Hyde Picture House.
The project continues to welcome match-funding contributions and will embark on a crowd-funding campaign when the redevelopment work begins. Individuals or businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities should contact Wendy Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The Picture House is a rare cultural gem in our city and Leeds City Council is delighted to play a vital part in securing its future.
“With work on the Picture House Project set to coincide with Channel 4’s move to Leeds and the opening of Screen Yorkshire’s new film office, it has never been a more exciting time for film and television in our city.
“Collectively, this brings us another step closer to making Leeds a truly innovative city, one that uses culture to shine a light on what is possible.”
Paul Scholey, chairman of the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House board, said: “As custodians of three of Leeds’s most historic cultural venues [Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Varieties Music Hall and the Hyde Park Picture House], we’re very proud of the important role Hyde Park Picture House plays in making our city so special.
“Finding a way to preserve historic buildings, which is both true to the story of the building and of value to the community who enjoy it, is a challenge. But with the support of the many fantastic partners we’ve had on this project, we feel more confident than ever that we have found that way forward, and as a result, the future of this wonderful gas-lit cinema is secured at last.”
The Hyde Park cinema will remain open as normal until the end of February with a programme of the latest independent releases, such asJojo Rabbit, 1917, Waves, The Lighthouse and Parasite.
Did you know?
OPENED in 1914, the Grade II listed Hyde Park Picture House, in Leeds, is one of Britain’s oldest cinemas.
Beginning its life shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, it gained popularity by screening patriotic dramas and newsreels to boost morale during the action.
The Picture House survived the advent of “talkies” in the 1920s and continues to screen independent, art house and classic films from around the world, as well as special live events with filmmakers, artists and academics.
Did you know too?
The 12-month On The Road programme of pop-up screenings across Leeds from mid-February will have six strands, each linked with a specific venue:
New Indies at Leeds University Union (luu.org.uk);
Hyde & Seek at Heart and other venues (heartcentre.org.uk);
Creatures of the Night at The Brunswick (thebrunswick.co.uk);
Docs & Artists’ Moving Image at 42 New Briggate;
Memory Matinees at Heart.
The full programme of screenings and events will be available to view from hydeparkpicturehouse.co.uk in the coming days.