Prince's Hall / Studios 1234,
then Unit Four / Shipley Flicks

Prince's Hall/Studios 1234/Unit Four/Shipley Flicks
Bradford Road, Shipley.

Prince's Hall Picture House

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Early Site History
Back in 1906 on this prime site next to the Branch Hotel and opposite the entrance to Northcliffe Playing Fields, a huge marquee was erected and known as the Shipley Pavilion and not to be confused with the later Pavilion de Luxe in Commercial Street.

The Shipley Pavilion was for Dan Hardie's "Players Concert Party" but this had to close down in as local residents in Selborne Terrace objected to the crowds who came to see the concert party. This prime location near the junction of Bradford Road and Otley Road, both originally turnpike roads, was thought ideal for such a new enterprise.

From March 1907 animated pictures were presented by Sidney Carter of New Century Pictures who had established his "pictures" interest at the St. George's Hall in Bradford along with Sam Wilson famed locally for his Wilson's Travelling Cinema - more details about Sam Wilson can be found on the Introduction page.

Following the closure of the Shipley Pavilion Wilson dropped out of the partnership and returned to his favourite hobby of running the Glen Tramway on Shipley Glen. Sidney Carter then purchased the site with a view to building his own picture hall to promote his blossoming New Century Pictures.


New Picture House - Prince's Hall
It was in 1910 that New Century Pictures trading here as Prince's Hall (Shipley) Ltd started to build the Prince's Hall Picture House to the design of Bradford architect William Illingworth, FRIBA, FSA, LRLA, (see also his Saltaire Picture House and New Victoria, Bradford). The stone building was set back from the pavement and a large wrought iron and glass canopy supported by pillars extended out to the pavement for the full width of the façade. The building cost around 6000GBP to erect and architecturally it stood out as a pleasing addition to Shipley. The cinema was named after the Prince of Wales later to become King George V.


The Interior
The central entrance with a floor of tessellated black and white marble led down a few marble steps to the stalls with a raked floor following the natural slope of the ground. The balcony, also accessed by marble steps, was particularly spacious and its stepped seating ascended right back over the entrance lobby to the outer wall. This was made possible because the projection room had been constructed behind the entrance lobby and rear of the stalls.

The proscenium opening had a width of 22 feet and shallow depth with curtains but no other stage facilities were ever added. The colour scheme employed was mainly cream and green to show off the artistic fibrous plaster moulding decoration. All of the 1100+ seats had an unobstructed view of the screen - this was important to Sidney Carter as he had experienced annoying pillar obstructions at his St. George's Hall in Bradford.

From the very start the hall was supplied with electricity throughout plus a generator had also been fitted.
Initially the films were supplied by Carter's New Century Animated Picture Co Ltd later to be known simply as New Century Pictures who also supplied their films to other cinemas in the area but obviously the St George's Hall and the Prince's Hall were given some priority.


The Opening
The Prince's Hall opened on Saturday 24th June 1911 at 2.30pm then at 7.45pm with a special programme . . .

Grand Coronation Opening
Full Picture Programme including the Coronation of
Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary.
Journey to Westminster Abbey and through London.
Naval Review at Spithead.

Later in January 1913 the Prince's Hall proudly advertised . . .

"The Picture House - Without exception the finest, handsomest, safest and most convenient Picture Hall in the United Kingdom. Now showing a full and complete series of Animated Pictures."

During the First World War, 1917 for example, the Prince's Hall advertised for its continuous evening programmes:

"Come when you like - stay as long as you like"

Adding as a precaution the now ubiquitous phrase:
"The Management reserve the right to refuse admission."

A "War Tax" of 1d and 2d was added to admission prices.

To accompany silent films an orchestra was formed under the direction of Peter Saltenstall and later by Albert Hill. Sometimes a solo pianist would play.


Organ Installed
In 1920 a 2-manual Andrews pipe organ was installed and played by John Brayshaw (later to perform at the new Saltaire Picture House) and so making the orchestra redundant. Around the same time similar Andrews organs were installed at the Theatre Royal in Manningham Lane and Elite in Toller Lane.

By late 1929 the American Western Electric sound system was installed so gradually making the organ redundant as more sound films became available; it was then later dismantled and sold for spares.

A well known manager of the Prince's Hall was Frank H. Fortune of Shipley and later owners in the 1940's were C & H Cinemas (Clifford Cawthorne and A.S Hyde) - names which keeps re-appearing the history of Shipley cinemas and who took over PH Entertainments Ltd to absorb into the expanding A.S Hyde Circuit for which more details about Shack Hyde and his cinemas can be found by clicking here.


Widescreen then CinemaScope
In November 1953 Shack Hyde installed a "giant panoramic" widescreen and seating capacity reduced by removing some of the front seats due to the larger screensize.

It was a year later in 1954 that CinemaScope was installed and the screen adapted to suit. The opening film was on Sunday 7th November 1954 was . . .

First Presentation in Shipley of the New 'CinemaScope' method of Film Exhibition
"The Robe" - 1953 USA Technicolor 135 mins.
Starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature.

Wherever the film played, the advertising carried the tagline . . .
"The first motion picture in CinemaScope - the modern miracle you see without glasses!"

This was followed a week later on Sunday 14th November with . . .

"How to Marry A Millionaire" - 1953 USA Technicolor 95 mins.
Starring Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall.


Star Takeover
In late 1962 the cinema was taken over by Star Cinemas of Leeds run by the Eckhart family of Harrogate. Star soon introduced a major refurbishment reputed to be very costly and the reconstructed entrance foyer and frontage was reported to have cost 4000GBP.

Internally, the auditorium was repainted, recarpeted together with new heating and lighting plus new seats with capacity now reduced to 1000. The large panoramic screen fitted by Shack Hyde was removed and a slightly larger one installed with motorized masking plus new screen curtains.

The reopening by Star was on Thursday 10th January 1963 and advertised as . . .

Shipley's New Luxury Cinema
"Spartacus" - 1960 USA Technicolor 192 mins
Starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons.

The new manager was 30 year-old bachelor Terry S. Hyde (no relation to A.S Hyde) who came to Shipley from the Regal at Five Lane Ends, Eccleshill, also controlled by Star at this time. Following their success at the Regal, Terry Hyde introduced children's matinées on Saturday afternoons.

Almost 10 years after Star's takeover the Prince's Hall was closed in June 1972 for further major structural alterations.


Star's Quad Cinemas
For two months the Prince's Hall underwent major structural alterations which were considered unique at that time. Star had already been successful in converting cinemas to bingo halls and had also "twinned" some cinemas by creating two smaller cinemas usually one in the Stalls area and another in the Balcony area.

Shipley was to have the first "quad", that is four mini-cinemas in the old Stalls area of the Prince's Hall with the later option of perhaps a fifth screen upstairs in the balcony area. The cinema was to be re-named Studios 1234.

Studios 1234  section drawing

The original Stalls area was partitioned (and sound-proofed) to make two mini cinemas (or Studios as Star called them) at the back and two more at the front with a corridor for access running straight down the centre and all following the rake (slope) of the original stalls floor. Seating capacities were small (as were the actual screen sizes) varying between 90 and 140. Carpets and linoleum were fitted by L.B Lockwood & Co of Bradford and the new seating by G. Bryan & Sons of Sleaford.


Periscope Projection
The projection arrangements were unusual in that the two rear studio cinemas were each serviced by their projectors via a downward 'periscope' whilst the two front studio cinemas were not in direct sight of the projection room at the back of the old stalls area. Therefore an upward 'periscope' system of mirrors was used to project the picture upwards into the void above the rear studios and across to another larger mirrored periscope down into each of the front pair of cinemas. The system worked well but required the mirrors to be kept very clean and free of accumulations of dust and chewing gum.

Four new projectors with the latest platters were fitted for continuous projection of shows of up to three and a half hours.

Seating capacities were now: Studio 1 - 90; Studio 2 - 95; Studio 3 - 140 and Studio 4 - 125 giving a total of 450. Each Studio had a different colour theme . . .
Studio 1 - Intense red seats, charcoal walls and dazzling green/grey check pattern carpet.
Studio 2 - Emerald green seats with green themed paintwork and carpet.
Studio 3 - Tangerine seats and red carpet and matching decor.
Studio 4 - Charcoal seats with brown/gold and rust carpet and walls.
As if that mix of colours was not enough, the access corridor down the centre had purple carpet and matching purple hessian on the walls.


Studios 1234 Opening
The opening films of Studios 1234 on Sunday 13th August 1972 were:

"Love Story" - 1970 USA Color Drama/romance 99 mins
Starring Ali MacGraw, Ryan O'Neal and Ray Milland.

"The Sexy Dozen" - 1969 Switzerland (in French) Eastmancolor
(aka "Das Bumsfidele Internat" in Europe)
Starring Maria Frost, Julie Jordan and Bruno Kaspar.

"The Sleeping Beauty" - 1959 USA Technicolor 75 mins
The Walt Disney popular animation/fantasy.

"Diamonds are Forever" - 1971 UK Technicolor Action/adv 75 mins
Starring Sean Connery, Jill St John and Charles Gray.

Each feature had "A Full Supporting Programme".
The new manager was Derek V. Haines.

The upper part of the building (the old balcony area) was left unused for the remainder of its existence and not further developed due to cost and fire regulations.


Unit 4 - New Owners
In 1978 the Studios 1234 (still referred to as the Prince's Hall by many local folk) changed ownership to Burnley based Hutchinson Cinemas (Hutchinson Leisure Ltd) and renamed to Unit Four and continued much as before.

The premised closed abruptly in 1980 due to serious storm damage to the steep pitched roof. After a whole new roof was added, the cinemas re-opened again for business in 1981. Control was later transferred to the Oxford based Apollo Cinemas.


Shipley Flicks
The cinemas struggled along until 1999 when it was taken over by two Bradford solicitors and cinema enthusiasts trading as Marsek who then renamed it Shipley Flicks - the name was the result of a newspaper competition and is based on the old slang term "flicks" as early projectors tended to have an annoying flicker.

The new owners Mark Husband and Iqbal Sekhon had between them spent thousands of Pounds on refurbishment including new carpets and installing Dolby Surround Sound but failed to attract sufficiently large audiences.


Closure and Demolition
Seven months later in 2000 Shipley Flicks was fighting for survival as the audience figures dwindled. Developers were also looking at the site like vultures and the new multiplex cinemas were clearly too much competition for a small local outfit and it subsequently closed for good. In July 2001 the premises were demolished to make way for a small block of flats.

After almost 100 years, Shipley now no longer has a cinema anywhere in its area and apart from the Glenroyal building (now Bingo) in Briggate, all evidence of the existence of the other cinemas has totally disappeared.

Copyright ©2003, Colin Sutton.
Not to be copied or reproduced without permission.


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