This surviving independent cinema in the Calder Valley opened its doors on July 12th 1921. A year of celebration starts this Saturday, July 10th, with an evening event this Saturday, starting at 7.30 p.m. and including a screening [digital] of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921). The Picture House has many affinities with our own Hyde Park Picture House. Both are supported by the local council: both have an active support of a society of Friends: both have histories written and published by the said Friends: both can screen 35mm and digital, even 16mm: both have traditional auditoriums with proper masking and a low level of illumination during screenings: and both have a varied programme including mainstream titles, art and foreign language titles and early films with live music accompaniment.
Hebden Bridge’s first cinema was a wooden structure which opened in 1911. In 1913 the nearby Co-op Hall also started screening the new ‘moving pictures’. Following World War 1 a purpose built cinema was proposed and approved. The rather large building for a small town had a classical exterior and the auditorium boasted a balcony. The opening ceremony included travel and topical pictures and musical quartet. The first features at the new Picture House were two British dramas of the period. Torn Sails (1920) was a tragic romance set in Wales. The Iron Stair (1920) was a crime drama. They were followed by a film directed by Cecil Hepworth, Anna, The Adventuress, a drama of changed identity set in Paris. Hepworth also directed a film using locations around Hebden Bridge, Helen of Four Gates (1920), though that film was screened at the Co-op Hall.
The Picture House flourished through the 1930s to 1950s. There was a period closure in the 1960s and again in the 1970s. But then it came under the control first of the local council, then the Metropolitan Council and finally Hebden Royd Town Council.. It continues furnishing theatrical entertainment for the area though it has suffered in local flooding, most recently in 2016. In the year of celebration there will be screenings of titles from its history, 35mm prints and ‘silents’ with live music..
There is a programme with The Adventures of Prince Achmed / Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed, a dazzling animation by Lotte Reiniger from 1926 using silhouette techniques. In December there is a screening of Pandora’s Box / Die Büchse der Pandora; G. W. Pabst’s film version of Franz Wedekind’s famous or infamous play. The film is illuminated by the luminous Louise Brooks in the main role. And the year ends with a screening of Helen of Four Gates; a print of what was though a ‘lost film’ was discovered in Canada in 207 and has now been fully restored.
The cinema is only ten minutes from Hebden Bridge railway station on the line with regular services between Leeds and Manchester. The balcony is rather cramped with wooden seats; however, the ground floor of the auditorium spacious and comfortable with a commendable low level of illumination during screenings. And the foyer offers real cups of tea with homemade cakes. So a trip to see ‘reel’ film in a real cinema should help assuage the absence until 2022 of our own Picture House.