The auditorium at Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds. Photograph: Tom Joy/Heritage Lottery Fund
A tiny cinema that opened in Leeds within months of the outbreak of the first world war, now believed to be the only one in the world still lit by gas, has won a £2.4m heritage lottery grant to restore historic features and open up its archives.
The Hyde Park Picture House is among a dozen sites receiving major grants, including William Morris’s beautiful Oxfordshire country home, Kelmscott Manor, where the flowers and wildlife inspired many of his designs.
Now owned by the local authority, the Grade II-listed Hyde Park still has 11 working gas lamps, though the imposing lantern on the facade, which is separately listed, was converted to electricity.
Its single-screen auditorium shows films every day, having seen off the competition of the giant jazz-age cinemas with their thousands of seats and luxurious facilities, the coming of television, and the more recent rise of out-of-town multiplexes.
One of the most glamorous and beautiful of Australian picture palaces was The Regent Theatre, located on Rundle Street. It opened on June 29, 1928 with the features, MGM’s “Flesh and the Devil” and Fox’s “The Gay Retreat”.
There was an orchestra of 16 players. The Wurlitzer 3Manual 15Ranks theatre pipe organ was installed some three months after the gala opening at a cost of 25,000 pounds ($AUD50,000) and premiered on September 22, 1928 with American organist Ray de Clemens, who took up a 3-month residency.
It was the third Regent Theatre in the Hoyts Theatres chain to open, after Perth and Sydney. It was also one of the first public buildings in Adelaide to be air-conditioned. The huge auditorium in Spanish-Moroccan style seated 2,300 patrons.
A highly arched proscenium was the focal point and was bathed in a range of subdued colors. From behind the intricate grille-work in and around the proscenium, emanated the distinctly rich sounds of the mighty Wurlitzer.
Stage shows were also always a part of the Regent Theatre presentations. A massive crystal chandelier hung above the lounge circle, and there were other smaller versions placed around the theatre.
In December 1953, the first CinemaScope film “The Robe” opened for an eight week run.
In late-1959, TV came to South Australia and theatre attendances started to dwindle. In 1961, the theatre closed for three weeks so that six shops could be built along one side of the stalls, with the shops facing out onto a laneway at the side of the theatre. 298 stalls seats were lost, leaving the theatre with 1,964 seats.
In 1967, plans were drawn by architect Peter Muller to create an arcade in the stalls area to accommodate 38 shops at ground level. The Paris Theatre behind the Regent Theatre was also demolished and rebuilt.
The Wurlitzer organ was then removed and is now installed in the Memorial Hall at St. Peters College. The newly revamped Regent Theatre re-opened on 30th May 1968 with “In the Heat of the Night”.
It incorporated the former ceiling and side walls of the original dress circle, some of the white marble from the grand staircase which led from the foyer, and most of the original 1928 facade.
The much smaller Regent Theatre now seated only 894 on a one raked level, using the former dress circle area. The latest projection equipment capable of most film formats was installed, including Cinerama on the 70 foot screen.
The Regent Theatre’s future was in doubt for quite some time and it closed on 28th January 2004. The building was further gutted internally to become part of the shopping centre.
Contributed by KinoCQ/Australian Cinema And Theatre Society
Photographer Franck Bohbot is a master of interior and exterior spaces.
Whether it’s his attention-grabbing photographs of French pools, grand libraries, or humble basketball courts, for me, it was hard to decide which photo series to interview him about.
In the end, I gravitated toward his pictures of American movie theaters because they seemed to evoke a familiar narrative—old Hollywood and the golden days of film.
The Crest, Westwood, Lobby, Los Angeles, California, 2014
The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles, California
It’s no easy feat to take an empty space—devoid of people, animals, or weather—and make it shine, but every theater comes to life in Bohbot’s imagination. He originally became interested in the visual arts through cinema before his interests turned to photography, which is now one of his great passions.
While working on a project on French theaters, Bohbot stumbled on the Max Linder Panorama, which he calls “a famous venue and a beautiful Parisian movie theater.
I told myself that one day I would travel to the U.S. and photograph the movie theaters built during the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.
On his most recent trip to Greenland, photographer Ciril Jazbec witnessed something magical—a photographic experience that made his “hairs stand on end.”
He was there working on his project, On Thin Ice, a chapter in a larger body of work chronicling the effects of climate change on communities in low-lying regions.
While in Uummannaq, (which is surprisingly the eleventh-largest town in Greenland, even with a population of about 1,200 people) Jazbec came across Children’s Home Uummannaq.
Speaking with the director, he learned that one of the ways the facility helps children is by “involving them in the traditional way of life, connecting them with hunters and fishermen”—the sort of cultural traditions often affected by changing weather patterns and globalization, and right in the crux of Jazbec’s goal of putting a human face on climate change.
One night, Children’s Home arranged to take the kids on a special outing—“We decided to head to the ice—to the frozen-over sea—to project Inuk, a Greenlandic language film, onto an iceberg,” Ciril says.
The film is especially relevant because of its cast of “nonprofessional Inuit actors”—seal hunters and youth from a local children’s home—and its narrative highlighting the tension between tradition and modernity present in contemporary Greenland.
With its nearly 6,000 seats and multi-tiered balconies, the Roxy Theatre was the showplace of New York City and of the nation.
Construction began on March 22, 1926 and it opened on March 11, 1927 with Gloria Swanson in “The Loves of Sonya”.
It was designed by architect Walter W. Ahlschlager of Chicago (who also designed New York’s Beacon Theatre), with interior decoration by Harold W. Rambusch of New York.
Its rather modest entrance at the corner of the Taft Hotel building disguised one of the most cavernous lobbies ever built and a magnificent auditorium that has lived on in its patrons’ imagination.
Whatever adjectives can be used for the Roxy Theatre, they all fail to signify the theatre’s achievement.
Sadly, the decline in attendance that had begun in the 1950’s spilled over into the early-1960’s and the Roxy Theatre closed with Dirk Bogarde in “The Wind Cannot Read” which began its run on March 9, 1960.
Despite numerous protests, it was razed in 1961. In its place sits a nondescript and unremarkable office building.
The neighboring Taft Hotel survives to this day (now the Michangelo Hotel) and is the only evidence that this epic structure was ever here. A TGI Friday’s restaurant occupies the theatres’ original entrance.
The legacy of the Roxy Theatre is almost as impressive as the theater itself once was.
The name ‘Roxy’ has since adorned movie theaters, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other establishments around the world all attempting to give to their patrons what Roxy always brought to its own: entertainment.
The end of the Roxy Theatre signified the beginning of the end for thousands of movie palaces across the country.
With its destruction, New York City began to destroy its past for urban renewal and the city, and movie palaces, have never been the same.