As the film awards season takes centre stage, the National Science and Media Museum has embarked on a captivating journey through its archives to unveil the enchanting tales of Yorkshire’s historic cinemas. These retro cinema programmes, hailing from the 1930s, offer a rare window into the iconic cinemas of both yesteryear and the present, unveiling a trove of nostalgia while shedding light on cinema-going trends and popular films from the early to mid-20th century.

The museum’s archives house programmes from current cinematic landmarks such as the enduring Cottage Road Cinema, Hyde Park Picture House, and the Odeon Theatre in Harrogate. They also feature cinemas that have faded into history, like the Odeon in Bradford, Lyric Cinema in Armley, Leeds, and Rex Cinema on Dewsbury Road in Leeds.

Originally named Headingley Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema boasts a remarkable 110-year history. Converted from a garage in 1905, the venue transformed into a cinema in 1912 and continues to operate in Leeds. A program from 1951 reveals upcoming films like the original “Father of the Bride” and the renowned “All About Eve” starring Bette Davis. Moreover, the programs provide a captivating glimpse into the evolution of ticket prices over time, with circle tickets priced at 1/9 and stalls at 1/3, equivalent to approximately £2 to £3 today.

Hyde Park Picture House, situated on Brudenell Road in Leeds and one of the oldest cinemas in the UK, holds the distinction of being the world’s only remaining gaslit cinema. The museum’s archive showcases the artwork from Hyde Park’s program in July 1950, featuring Powell & Pressburger’s “Gone to Earth” and a hard-hitting British film noir. The preserved image on the cover underscores Hyde Park’s enduring historic charm, with its iconic staircase appearing almost unchanged to this day.

The Odeon Theatre in Bradford, originally located on Manchester Road, emerged as a formidable competitor to the New Victoria Cinema. Characterized by a distinctive art deco style and spectacular exterior lights, the cinema’s archive includes a program from its opening night in 1938. The evening commenced with the national anthem, featured a Mickey Mouse cartoon (“Mickey’s Trailer”), and concluded with the world premiere of “The Ware Case.” Despite suffering damage from a Luftwaffe bombing two years later, the Odeon managed to reopen 10 weeks later on Armistice Day. Ultimately, the cinema met its demise in 1969, succumbing to closure and subsequent demolition.

The release of these retro programmes sparked a wave of nostalgia across social media, with individuals reminiscing about late-night double bills in the 90s at Hyde Park, enduring three-hour queues, and sold-out screenings like “A Bug’s Life” at Cottage Road. The museum encourages the public to share their memories or stories of these venues or other historic cinemas in the region.

Commenting on the cinema programmes, 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. 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.”

For those intrigued by Yorkshire’s cinematic history, a deep dive into the past and present can be found at the museum’s blog.