WITH the film awards season now well underway, the National Science and Media Museum has delved into its archive to uncover the stories of historic cinemas in the region.

The museum’s collection of retro cinema programmes, dating back to the 1930s, give us a glimpse into much-loved cinemas past and present. The nostalgic treasure trove provides an insight into cinema-going trends and popular films in the early to mid-20th century.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Programme for The Rex Cinema, 1951Programme for The Rex Cinema, 1951 (Image: Science Museum Group Collection)

Among the museum’s archive are programmes from cinemas still in use, including the long-standing Cottage Road Cinema, Hyde Park Picture House and the Odeon Theatre, in Harrogate, as well cinemas that are no longer around like the Odeon in Bradford, Lyric Cinema in Armley and Rex Cinema on Dewsbury Road in Leeds.

Originally named Headingley Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema is more than 110-years-old. After opening as a garage in 1905, the building was converted into a cinema in 1912 and is still operating in Leeds. Its programme, from 1951, shows upcoming films including the original Father of the Bride and Bette Davis classic All About Eve.

The archive programmes show how the price of cinema tickets has changed over time, with ticket prices at 1/9 for the circle and 1/3 for the stalls - around £2 to £3 today.

One of the UK’s oldest cinemas, Hyde Park Picture House on Brudenell Road in Leeds, is famous for being the only remaining gas-lit cinema in the world. The artwork for Hyde Park’s programme is from July 1950, the year of Powell & Pressburger’s Gone to Earth and hard-hitting British film noir. Even from the image on the cover, it’s clear that Hyde Park has retained its historic charm, with the landmark staircase looking barely any different today.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Original artwork design for the Hyde Park Picture House programmeOriginal artwork design for the Hyde Park Picture House programme (Image: Science Museum Group Collection)

The historic picture house, which appears in 2020 film The Duke starring Dame Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent, re-opened last year after a £4 million restoration. The refurbishment means that its nine gas lights will be lit for every screening once again.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Cottage Road Cinema programme, designed by Woodhouse and Sons, February and March 1951Cottage Road Cinema programme, designed by Woodhouse and Sons, February and March 1951

The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which provided £2.3 million of the funding, said the revamp of the much-loved venue, backed by Leeds City Council and the Garfield Weston Foundation, bucked the trend at a difficult time for cinemas. The two-year restoration also included installing a new 50-seat screen, located in the cinema’s basement, as well as the repair of the facade, the restoration of the original terrazzo flooring and the introduction of accessible facilities.

The Odeon Theatre in Bradford, originally on Manchester Road, was built as a competitor to the New Victoria Cinema (later the Gaumont and the Odeon), with a distinctive art deco style and spectacular exterior lights, similar to other Odeon cinemas of the time.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Souvenir programme for Bradford Odeon opening, 1938, with info about the first films shown thereSouvenir programme for Bradford Odeon opening, 1938, with info about the first films shown there (Image: Science Museum Group)

In the Media Museum’s archive is a programme from the Odeon’s opening night in 1938, offering an insight into the programming of the era. Opening with the National Anthem, the event featured a Micky Mouse cartoon, Mickey’s Trailer, and ended with the world premiere of the film The Ware Case.

Two years after its opening night, the Odeon was bombed by the Luftwaffe, causing significant damage to the building. The cinema re-opened 10 weeks later, on Armistice Day. It was later closed permanently and demolished in 1969.

The retro programmes have sparked nostalgia across social media, with many people sharing their memories, including late-night double bills in the 1990s at Hyde Park, standing in a three-hour queue, and a sold out screening of A Bug’s Life at Cottage Road. Members of the public are encouraged to get in touch with the museum with memories or stories of these cinemas or other historic cinema venues in the region.

Toni Booth, Curator of Film at the National Science and Media Museum said: “The museum has a vast collection of film and cinema heritage from the early 20th century in its archive, including ephemera from iconic cinemas right here in Yorkshire.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Odeon souvenir programme. The opening included a world premiereBradford Odeon souvenir programme. The opening included a world premiere

“The vintage programmes give a fascinating glimpse into the trends of the era from popular films, ticket prices to marketing styles. They reveal how central cinema has been to our lives for decades, something we hope continues long into the future.”

l To find out more about the historic cinemas of Yorkshire, past and present, visit: www.blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/take-me-back-to-the-movies-west-yorkshires-old-cinema-programmes/