Oxford Picture Hall/Oxford Cinema|
Dudley Hill Road Road,
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The district was originally served by the Undercliffe Pavilion in nearby Northcote Road - one of several concert party pavilions which had the occasional travelling film show.
In March 1913 a new company, Undercliffe Picture House Company Ltd, was formed with £3,000 in £1 shares with the aim to build a permanent cinema. A suitable plot of land was found at Dudley Hill Road and purchased from D.H Waterhouse, R Sowden and Mary Sowden. The Company registered on 23rd February 1914. The directors were listed as W Priestley, L Kitchen, Tom Thornton, A Holdsworth, Cecil Barnett, J.E Rouse and A Cansfield.
Close to the busy road junction of Dudley Hill Road/Killinghall Road with Otley Road/Harrogate Road. A narrow unsurfaced track known as Elbow Lane runs down the right-hand side of the building connecting with Northcote Road.
A single deck purpose built hall of stone construction with tiled pitch roof. The façade with white terracotta faience and ornamentation. The central entrance, topped by a half-round arch and pediment, was flanked by two shop units.
The central entrance lobby with steps up to the two entrances to the auditorium with projection room in between. It had a bit of a mock tudor look about it.
The auditorium was long and narrow with its 678 seats in three blocks with two aisles and the rake following the natural slope of the land. The rear central block of seats was raised up on a low platform providing a better view for the top price. Its barrel vaulted ceiling with pendant light fittings providing a clear view of the rear wall on which the screen was directly mounted. There was no stage or proscenium opening. The screen with rounded corners was 17feet 6inches from the front row.
The projection room (literally a box) projected out into the front lobby and was accessed at each side by a fireproof sliding door and up two steps. Two projectors were installed. The rewind, storage and rectifier room was in the cellar on the left-hand side of the lobby and the toilets to the right-hand side.
For the children's matinées, a separate entrance with small paybox was used to the right of the screen and entering from Elbow Lane. This kept the children out of the cleaned and polished main entrance and, more importantly, stopped them from crowding on the very narrow pavement next to a busy road.
The Oxford Hall Picture Palace opened on Thursday 9th April 1914 with . . .
Special Attractions for Easter
"The Adventures of Kathlyn" - 1913 USA B/w Silent
Starring Kathlyn Williams, Charles Clary and William Carpenter.
Matinées Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 2.00pm.
Prices: 3d, 4d, 6d and 9d.
A few days later the Bradford Daily Argus reported on the successful Easter weekend films . . .
"The Oxford, Undercliffe's new home of pictures, opened its doors to large and appreciative Easter Holiday crowds yesterday (Monday 13th April 1914). The management have been fortunate enough to book an exclusive . . .
"Inhumanity" - USA B/w Silent.
One of the best pictures now in the provinces.
The story of the well known play .
"Corsican Brothers" - 1912 USA B/w Silent.
Starring George Lessey, Miriam Nesbitt and Bigelow Cooper.
was also exhibited.
By the 1920's prices had risen to 6d to 1/-d and G. Cole now the resident manager. There were two programme changes weekly.
By 1930 the Western Electric sound system had been installed. As the screen was mounted directly on the rear wall, it was necessary to create an opening in the wall and build an outboard wooden box housing to accommodate the horn loudspeaker. This arrangement was to continue throughout the war and the 1950's virtually unchanged.
The projectors as seen in 1950 each had a non-sync turntable at the rear of the base but it is not clear if this was ever used prior to optical sync sound being installed.
The Oxford now under the ownership of Parman Cinemas run by Cliff Parrott, a local haulage contractor and later by Lionel Agar's Ace Cinemas who also controlled the Astra, Birch Lane, Coventry, Elysian and Plaza cinemas for a period of time.
However, the Oxford had not kept pace with modernisation and was becoming very shabby and old fashioned resulting in its closure on Sunday 11th September 1955 major for alterations.
Refurbishment and Re-opening
After extensive refurbishment including the building of a new proscenium opening with a new panoramic widescreen plus screen curtains. The seating had been rearranged into a single block with side aisles. A curious arrangement for the period when smoking was rife in cinemas, the majority of the rows had ashtrays on the rear of each alternate seat except for the back few rows of better quality seats which had none at all - rather odd as there is no evidence of this being non-smoking area. The dingy pendant light fittings of the past were now replaced by brighter rectangular panels recessed into the barrel vaulted ceiling.
The Oxford re-opened on Monday 17th October 1955 boasting an entirely new look . . .
Popular Prices 1/-d and 1/6d.
"The Student Prince" - 1954 USA Anscocolor 107mins.
Starring Ann Blyth, Edmund Purdom and John Ericson
and the voice of Mario Lanza.
On the new Panoramic Silver Screen.
Bradford's cosiest cinema.
A this time the Oxford was run in conjunction with the Coventry Hall in Wakefield Road. The panoramic screen was later adapted for CinemaScope.
Unusually for a small suburban cinema, the Oxford advertised a Special Midnight Matinée of Friday 3rd April 1959 . . .
Tonight Midnight Matinée
in aid of the C of E Childrens' Society
John Mills, Horst Buchholz, Haley Mills in
"Tiger Bay" - 1959 UK B/w 105mins.
Northern Premier by kind permission of
the Rank Organisation Ltd.
Tickets 10/6d, 7/6d, 5/-d and 2/6d.
The local people were not used to paying such high prices at the Oxford but the Midnight Matinée was well supported.
By the early 1960's the cinema had come under the ownership of Threedee Ltd of Liverpool.
From Thursday 13th December 1962 it became Oxford Bingo and Social Club for Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and films for the remainder of the week but temporarily closed for alterations on Saturday 18th December 1965.
The cinema re-opened again on Sunday 26th December 1965 at 5.00pm with . . .
"Bed Without Breakfast" - 1957 Denmark B/w 81mins.
Starring Haune Borchsenius, Lee Paterson and Vera Stricker.
"Too Young to Love" - 1960 UK B/w 88mins.
Starring Pauline Hahn, Joan Miller and Austin Willis.
The final closure as a cinema came rather suddenly two weeks later on the weekend of Saturday 8th January 1966 with a showing of a couple of old films . . .
"The Stooges Go West" - 1951 USA B/w 56mins.
Starring George O'Brien, Moe Howard and Shemp Howard.
"Hello London" - 1958 USA/UK Color 78mins.
Michael Wilding, Dora Bryan and Roy Castle.
Whilst on the final Sunday 9th January 1966 it was . . .
"Fire Over England" - 1937 UK B/w 92mins.
Starring Flora Robson, Raymond Massey and Leslie Banks.
"The Widow" - 1954 France/Italy B/w 81mins.
Starring Patricia Roc, Leonardo Botta, Anna-Maria Ferraro.
Opens as Bingo Club
The former Oxford building re-opened on Thursday 27th January 1966 as the Top Flight Bingo Club. Bingo has continued ever since. The proscenium and screen were totally removed and the former projection room had its portholes opened up to form a bar.
Currently in 2007 it is operated by Stuart Nuttall's Kingsway Bingo of Brighouse and run in conjunction with Kingsway's similar operation at the former Plaza cinema in Cross Lane - this latter hall closing in July 2007.
Copyright ©2008, Colin Sutton.
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.
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