The First Film – Hyde Park Picture House


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Entering the Hyde Park Picture House feels a little like going back in time; be it the velvet curtains, the plush seats, or the sheer fact that it doesn’t exist within a busy complex of chain shops and restaurants, instead firmly planting itself amongst the very much student-orientated, crime ridden (but dearly loved) neighbourhood that is Hyde Park.

I must admit, it is very surreal sitting in Zulfis (don’t pretend you don’t love a chicken nuggets and chips combo for £1.99) post-night out and being a mere few metres from such an old and established venue. Yet, in a way, this is what adds to its charm. It’s so unassuming in a way that wouldn’t be the same were it situated in any other area, and, being a Grade II listed building, it hopefully never will be. This charm is aided by the fact that it only screens the most independent, eclectic range of films – you certainly won’t be able to buy a ticket for ‘Fast and Furious number 19892’ here. There’s something effortlessly unique about the HPPH, a uniqueness which I think is greatly lacking in the current age of Odeon’s, Vue’s and Cineworld’s.

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I think part of its individuality is rooted in its history; the building possesses a strange, almost eerie, but at the same time awe-inspiring quality, not dissimilar to that of an old theatre. Being a self-proclaimed Thespian, I must admit that the combination of film and theatre is pretty much as good as it gets for me. Yet, the significance of this connection goes beyond my own personal views. When the HPPH opened in 1914, it was primarily a venue dedicated to providing a level of escapism from the horrors of the War. When one considers that theatre functions very much on the same level, in terms of providing escapism or an alternative to the ‘real’ world, the link between the two makes perfect sense. This realisation is one which I believe has inspired the surge in popularity of independent art house cinemas across the country. Whilst they may have always existed, the last ten years has arguably seen an increase in their status. Perhaps this is due to a nostalgic desire to recreate the past, in a way that can also be traced to the sudden rise in outdoor/drive-in cinemas. It’s undeniable that there is something magical about the cinema, and so watching films in the locations they were originally made in, as opposed to the commercialised settings of the last few decades, only adds to this charm.


[Image courtesy of]

Whilst we are on the topic of nostalgia and the past, it seems only fitting to discuss the HPPH premiere of ‘The First Film’. ‘The First Film’ tells the story of the 19th century quest to be the first to make the move from photography to “moving pictures”. In October 1888, a French artist named Louis Le Prince made some of the world’s very first films right here in Leeds, using cameras from both America and the UK. However, just before he was due to present his discoveries to the world Le Prince went missing, shortly after boarding a train from Dijon to Paris. As a result, he was never able to justify that it was in fact him that invented the notion of the “moving picture”, and his name, along with his work, was soon forgotten. Several years later, the glory was claimed by Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers.


David Nicholas Wilkinson grew up in Leeds and was told this story at school, a story which has fascinated and inspired him for years, finally coming to fruition in the form of ‘The First Film’. Having spent over 45 years in the film industry, Wilkinson was shocked by the fact that Le Prince’s name is little known nor celebrated in regards to his pioneering efforts, and his work is often overlooked in favour of those who came after him. Thus, ‘The First Film’ serves as a record of Wilkinson’s own journey to uncover the truth of the origins of film, and the real reason behind the mysterious disappearance of Le Prince.

To embark on this journey of discovery and be taken back in time make sure you catch the premiere THIS Wednesday the 1st July at the Hyde Park Picture House. More information about the film and how to buy tickets available here:

By Malak El-Gonemy