Hyde Park Picture House has been a cultural icon in Leeds for over 100 years. It first gained popularity during the First World War, where period dramas and newsreels were screened to boost morale. However, there were moments in time where it was very nearly lost to plans for supermarkets, car parks and strip clubs. Despite this, Hyde Park Picture House continues to screen the very best independent, art house and classic films from around the world. The team and the devoted community surrounding it are determined to secure its future and give it an opportunity to flourish for at least another 100 years.
For those that have visited the Picture House, you will be familiar with the ususal ritual of queueing on the street for tickets, and just how small the foyer can seem on a busy night. The ‘Picture House Project’, announced last week, will see the cinema undergo essential conservation work to the façade and existing auditorium, alongside the creation of new facilities. This includes a larger foyer space and a second 50 seat screen located in the basement. It will become more accessible to everyone, with each floor being fitted with a lift, and landscaping outside to make the entrance step free. The architectural team working on the project, Page\Park, are ensuring that the cinema’s existing unique ambience, character and deep-rooted history will not be lost in the restoration. Even the lamp post outside will be getting a much needed revamp. There are also plans to show even more of the building’s history, such as removing carpet from the foyer to reveal its original mosaic tiled flooring. These essential changes will protect and improve the cinema, whilst making it more comfortable, efficient and sustainable.
Work will commence mid February… but don’t despair! Film lovers will still be able to enjoy cinema even while its closed. ‘On the Road’ is a 12 month programme of pop-up screenings across the city at venues such as Leeds University Union, The Brunswick and 42 New Briggate. The full programme of screenings and events are available to view on the cinema website.
The Picture House’s first ever patron has been revealed as Yorkshire born Francis Lee, the BAFTA-nominated writer and director of the 2017 hit God’s Own Country. Lee’s passion for supporting northern voices and filmmakers, along with his history with the cinema makes him a stand-out choice. In a statement he said;
“The Picture House team have been very supportive of me from the beginning of my career as a filmmaker, 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, offering an incredible mix of cinema, community involvement and support of local film makers. I am very excited to see how the Picture House continues to evolve and grow following the development plans.”
The Picture House Project will allow the cinema to become more sustainable and accessible while preserving its soul, so that future generations be able to visit this iconic cultural hub to celebrate film for years to come, and the much loved gas lights will continue to shine!