Mytholmroyd Historical Society met on Friday evening the 11th February in St. Michael’s Church Hall at 7.30pm for the 6th of their Winter programme of lectures. The illustrated talk was titled “The history of the Hebden Bridge Picture House” by Kate Higham which last year celebrated the centenary of its opening in its current premises.
Sadly I was not able to be present so my synopsis is based on a report of the talk by Mr Stuart Greenwood who very kindly offered to deputise for me. May I once again therefore, thank Stuart for his kindness. Kate was introduced by our Speaker finder Rodney Collinge.
I would recommend that Kate and Ray Barnes book titled “Hebden Bridge Picture House” – the life and times of a local treasure £10.00 be bought. It is a very interesting book and it essentially tells the tale of the survival of our much loved Picture House against enormous odds. The proceeds are to be given to the Picture House.
Stuart explains that we were told by Kate how moving pictures developed after 1870 and projecting them. Edison was one of the first to develop them. At first very short films of ordinary events were shown to the astonished audiences but later films were with a story developed and proved very popular often being shown as part of a variety show and later just films in travelling shows.
Eventually a picture house was built in Hebden Bridge in 1911. It was called “The Royal Electric” and was made of wood on what is now the Memorial Gardens.
In 1921 the present building in its classical style was built with 946 seats and pictures became very popular and later talkies in 1926 followed by colour and Hollywood films etc and even Sunday shows in 1951.
However, by the late ‘50’s and in the ‘60’s audiences fell away due to the growth of television and local mill closures. By the late 60’s there were grave financial problems and numerous personnel changes but although it closed for a very short period it was the enthusiasm of certain people that led to it surviving. By 1975 Calderdale Council helped, upgrading the cinema with the seating now being 550 but problems continued and in 1984 the cinema had its lowest attendance as did most other local cinemas. By 1996 there was an attempt to sell the building.
However, it was then that “Friends of Hebden Bridge Picture House” was formed and additional efforts were then made to save our local cinema which included it becoming a listed building and live events promoted. In 2012 the asset was transferred to Hebden Royd Town Council, which it was thought would more guarantee its survival. Sadly however, the cinema was badly flooded in the disastrous floods of Boxing Day 2015 but along with enthusiastic volunteers it soon re-opened but only the balcony and no heating. Now of course, it is fully functional and very comfortable, spacious and warm. More recently the Covid pandemic has led to further problems but yet again it has survived.
The Picture House has had many problems over a 100 years but has survived if at times very narrowly.
In conclusion, Kate asked us to support it as much as possible.
Julie Wild gave the vote of thanks.
Its survival reminds me of the phrase “ if you don’t use it you lose it”. Therefore, let us hope the local community continues to keep the picture house still going.
Mytholmroyd Historical Society meets the second Friday of each month at 7.30pm at St. Michael’s Church Hall, New Road, Mytholmroyd for our Winter programme of illustrated lectures from September to April . All are welcome but non- members pay £3.00 entrance fee for each visit or £!0 annual subscription to become a member.
It is hoped that we shall have two Summer evening trips for members only. The annual day excursion that was planned for Paradise Silk Mill, Macclesfield and Buxton the second Saturday in August is now cancelled.
Details of a substitute trip are to be announced. This trip will be open both to members and non-members of the Society