THE Alhambra Theatre continues to be the jewel in Bradford's crown, drawing a quarter of a million visitors a year to the heart of the city, new figures show.

The landmark theatre celebrates its centenary this year, and visitor numbers revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show it pulls in far more people than any other Council-owned attraction.

Over the past five years, a total of 1,264,351 theatre-goers have passed through its doors.

But 'new kid on the block' attraction City Park is hot on its heels, with events there pulling in around 200,000 visitors a year.

The figures cover the five years to April this year.

Bradford Theatres' general manager Adam Renton said the local authority was expecting the Alhambra's visitor numbers to rise significantly this year, thanks to the huge success of recent blockbuster shows The Lion King and War Horse, which were watched by around 100,000 people in Bradford.

And this footfall did not just provide a huge boost to the city's economy, it also helped to transform the way people thought about Bradford, Mr Renton said.

He said: "The restaurant is now on the top floor and each night we have got 90 people sitting, overlooking City Park with it all lit up and the fountains going.

"You could be anywhere in Europe when you are up there, looking out. That's a vast amount of people who are coming into Bradford and leaving, having had a very good experience.

"That then ripples out and they start to feel more positive about the city. You have a lot more people coming in with their kids and feeling safe."

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council's executive member for culture, said getting the right shows and exhibitions was crucial to attracting visitors to theatres, museums and galleries.

She said: "The key is to get great content for the venues. Having a great venue is not enough."

For example, she said, upgraded facilities at Cartwright Hall art gallery meant it had been able to host a major exhibition of Rossetti's work.

St George's Hall in Bradford was the second most popular Council-owned theatre after the Alhambra, with an average of 87,725 visitors a year, followed by Kings Hall in Ilkley and the Alhambra Studio.

And Bradford Industrial Museum in Eccleshill was the most popular of Bradford Council's museums and galleries, with an average of 58,902 visitors a year, followed by Cliffe Castle in Keighley, Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Bolling Hall in East Bowling and the Manor House in Ilkley.