Photo credit: Betty Longbottom
Sat square in the middle of Leeds’ biggest student district, the Hyde Park Picture House has become famous among the people in the area. Despite the outbreak of war just three months earlier, it opened in November 1914 and was quietly advertised in a local bulletin as ‘the cosiest place in Leeds’. This reputation, unsurprisingly, is something that it has managed to uphold to this day.
One thing the building does not lack is character. For one, it’s the only gas-lit cinema left in the UK, which helps give it that old-fashioned feel. At the door you’re greeted by a smiling usher, and jazz piano plays while you wait for the film to start. The curtains and chairs are all plush red, and there’s an Edwardian balcony area that you can choose to sit in if the mood takes you. You can still imagine how the place would have looked 100 years ago, and this all adds up to a cinematic experience that’s quite unlike anything you’ll encounter in your local Odeon.
During the War, the Picture House showed news screenings and morale-boosting short films alongside its regular movies. Nowadays, these have been replaced by a large numbers of art house and independent films, which are generally well worth a watch, if only for the reason that you’re not likely to see them anywhere else. Alongside these, there are frequent showings of films many would consider ‘old classics’, which tend to draw quite a crowd.
However, that’s not to say that no modern releases wind up there. True, you’re unlikely to catch a screening of Gruff Cop Revenge Bullet 9 or something similar, but if a Hollywood blockbuster does make its way onto the programme, you can be pretty sure it’s a quality one. March saw frequent showings of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, with a few screenings of Gravity chucked in for good measure. What’s more, compared to other cinemas, the tickets for these tend to be cheaper.
The Picture House has becoming something of a community icon over the years. Every November Leeds plays host to an annual film festival, with independent short films being shown in locations all over the city. The Picture House is one such venue, and given its location and decor, it’s a perfect venue for the student with a keen interest in cinema. Alongside this, it has family-friendly matinee shows, and occasional bring-your-baby sessions to allow local parents to get out to the cinema.
Whether you’re an avid cinema fan or simply looking for a more cultural way to spend a Saturday night, the Hyde Park Picture House should be far from your last choice.
Part of Adam’s ‘Yorkshire’s Independent Cinemas‘ series for TSOTA. View the full series HERE
Filed under: Film, TV & Tech