Yorkshire's Vintage Indie Cinemas
Like your cinemas small, cosy, smart and experimental? Nick Ahad explores some of Yorkshire’s coolest indie cinemas.
Here is my love letter to cinema. Well, a love letter, and an apology. I have a confession to make. I am the previous owner of a card that allowed me unlimited viewings at an unnamed cinema chain of multiplexes. Gorging on movies, four in a Sunday, used to be a favourite pastime. Like eating fast food, the experience was one that never left me satisfied. I have realised the error of my ways. Movies, lovingly crafted, painfully borne creatures (I know, I’ve written and directed a few), deserve not to be piled high like cheap confectionary. They deserve to be seen in proper cinemas, places with red seats, deep carpets and people who care about the product they are selling.
I love cinema and by owning one of those cards, I was cheating on true cinema. Fortunately, in Yorkshire, we are blessed with such places. Theatres of dreams where the imaginations of creatives come to life on screens in front of our eyes are in abundance in this county.
Places like The Palace Cinema in Malton. Only the hardest of hearts could fail to fall in love with a cinema that has ‘family owned’ as its major selling point. The cinema website, in its Frequently Asked Questions section, responds to the question: “Why do you never answer the phone?” The answer? “If there is a show going on we give our best attentions to the customers in the foyer and to getting the shows in at the time. So we don’t answer the phone for the half an hour before the start of films.” Good luck finding a multiplex with the wit to provide such an idiosyncratic response.
I spend a lot of time in Scarborough watching live performances at the town’s genuinely beautiful Stephen Joseph Theatre. There’s nothing quite like live performance. That said, the theatre retains some of the magic of live performance when the McCarthy auditorium is transformed into a cinema. Like the Malton cinema, this is a carefully selected programme - a film has to earn its place at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Just down the road from Scarborough at the Whitby Pavilion Cinema, you’ll find it hard not to be seduced by the stunning location. The views from the clifftop venue are stunning. Where else could you be taken to another world, step out of a cinema and find yourself looking out to sea. It really couldn’t be more perfect.
The late lamented Odeon cinema in Bradford (yes, it will be lovely to have a music venue in the city, but anyone who ever visited the cinema in the eighties and early nineties will remember it as a picturehouse most fondly) was an epic experience. I appreciate that over time the memory plays tricks of scale, but seriously, the Odeon auditorium was enormous. Proving that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, the newest addition to Yorkshire’s independent cinemas is Ilkley’s small but perfectly formed Ilkley Cinema in the former Il Travatore nightclub. Seating 56, the next smallest is the 68-seater Cinema dei Piccoli in Rome. We really can do different scales in Yorkshire.
However, if the larger end of the scale is what you’re after, the brilliant Moonlight Cinemas, outdoor drive in movies have begun to pop up around the region. Starting out in Scarborough, who knows which corners of Yorkshire the venture will have conquered by the time you read this.
Yorkshire also has one of the oldest cinemas in the country. Opening on 7 November 1914, The Hyde Park Picture House is Leeds’ premier art house cinema. A small advert announced the opening of the new picture house in the local paper, proudly proclaimed itself to be “The Cosiest in Leeds”. There’s also the Hebden Bridge Picture House which holds Thursday’s ‘Elevenses’ offering coffee, tea and flapjack to enjoy with your film.
When it comes to cinema you should never have to subject yourself to the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’ ethos ever again. Not in Yorkshire at any rate.