The Picture House / Tatler / New Tatler|
4, Thornton Road,
Town Hall Square,
This central position surrounded by shops and offices seemed ideal to its first proprietor John Goodman who converted the stone built 4-storey former warehouse in 1912 into a two-deck cinema to be called The Picture House together with café and a large basement area used a Billiard Hall. The upper floors were leased out to commercial businesses and a clothing factory on the top floor. This prime site was approx. 55 feet wide and 65 feet deep to the rear and accessible via a wide passageway and delivery yard.
The elaborate new frontage at street level with its mahogany and glass doors opened into a miniature court with its marble and mahogany base and richly embellished staircases leading to the first floor café. Here refreshments were available to off-street customers and to cinema patrons particularly of its luxurious balcony.
The carpets in the Grand Café, as it was to be called, were those used on the Royal Yacht 'Medina' in which King George V and Queen Mary had made their voyage to India for the Delhi Durbar in 1911.
From the café to the balcony there were thick Turkish carpets "to deaden the sound of a footfall and Ionic pillars and furnishings in the Adams style". The stalls area with raked floor and wooden proscenium arch with the screen mounted on the back wall.
An electric vacuum plant had been installed in the basement alongside the steam heating system. Goodman based his ventilation system on scientific principles with fans capable of changing the atmosphere in the auditorium ten times per hour.
With due regard to the Cinematograph Act of 1909, the projection machinery were enclosed in a fire-proof operating box. Still with safety in mind, over £400 had been spent on a special stone staircase and eight emergency exits so that the building "can be unloaded in less than 3 minutes even when it is quite full". This was quite an achievement as the original auditorium seated circa 700 people.
The seats were upholstered in the best plush and of the same quality throughout except that the higher priced seats were more commodious than the cheaper ones.
Grand Opening Night
Included in the programme was the film . . .
"A Heart of Stone" - 1912 B/w Silent.
The luxurious lounges had deep pile carpets, ottomans and divans!
Later advertising proclaimed . . .
"The World's Premier Pictures with
A small orchestra accompanied the silent films.
The following week on Tuesday 31st December 1912 it advertised . . .
"Tonight, TonightAnd outside in Town Hall Square the carillon and chimes of the Town Hall clock would ring in the New Year.
On Sunday afternoons from 7th to 28th April and again for nine weeks throughout November and December 1918 crowds of up to 700 assembled to hear Miss Clara Margaret Codd (1876-1971), a suffragette and theosophist, whose topics covered Reincarnation, The Hope of the World, The Other side of Death and The Power of Thought.
". . . the Picture House was often filled with audiences thrilled by the inspired messages delivered."
"The management have augmented their orchestra by installing a Two Manual piped organ, electrically blown and with 15 stops. Built by T.E. Hughes, organ builders of Manningham Lane, Bradford.From Monday 22nd November 1920 the organ and orchestra accompanied the film . . .
Sir Hall Caine's Greatest Masterpiece
Change of Ownership
The cinema was never called Forum and continued to be known as The Picture House. However, the café did become known as the Forum Café. Continuous shows daily (no Sunday opening) with programme changes twice weekly. Prices now ranged from 6d to 1/-d and so comparable with its other city centre competitors.
In 1922 it was announced that the Tatler was now "under the new management from November 6th of Misses Thompson and Lord (late of Brown Muff)". In late 1929 the Western Electric Sound system was installed.
New Owner - now Tatler
Grand Re-opening today Monday 2nd November 1931
On Tuesday 22nd March 1932 Buxton proudly advertised . . .
Continuous 1.00 to 10-30pm daily.
Refurbishment - now New Tatler
The horseshoe balcony was extended and the auditorium internal roof lifted. The wooden proscenium was now quoted as being 25 feet wide - quite large for the relatively compact size of hall. New ventilating shafts had been fitted. After such major work the cinema was reseated, recarpeted and redecorated throughout. Accommodation was now reduced to 650 for comfort. An updated Western Electric sound set was installed.
From Monday 30th September 1935 and now well into the 'talkie' era, it advertised as . . .
"The Tatler Super Cinema
But, a few days later, on the 2nd October it was now calling itself simply New Tatler - this name was to stay for the remaining years. By the end of October 1935 the refurbishment was complete. The Hughes organ was still in place though nothing is known of its usage (if any) after talkies arrived.
"The New Tatler is STILL the cosiest cinema in Bradford with bargain matinées 4d and 6d."Attendances were good throughout the war (1939-45) period.
Fire Disaster and Closure
The following morning, the entrance foyer looked little worse but the auditorium was full of wreckage as firemen and staff cleared away fire damage by torchlight. Whilst many of the rear seats were undamaged, the front area, proscenium/stage, screen and the Hughes pipe organ were completely destroyed.
It was believed the fire started near the screen where the worst destruction was caused. Water percolated into the Billiard Saloon in the basement. The top floors of the 4-storey building were used by raincoat manufacturers Wright & Peel (Leeford) Ltd suffered smoke damage and firemen had to wear breathing apparatus.
Harry Buxton estimated the damage at "a few thousands (of Pounds)" and did not know when the cinema might reopen due to building difficulties - "Three months or six, if we're lucky" he said.
The last films shown before the fire were . . .
"Captain Blood" - 1935 USA B/W 119 mins.
After the Fire
Another disaster was to hit the building on the morning of Friday 29th September 1946 when, following heavy storms and 2 inches of rain in 30 minutes, the Bradford Beck which runs under Thornton Road outside the New Tatler building burst and overflowed into the streets flooding the city centre with the waters rushing right through the former cinema. The following day with all exit doors wide open the drying up operation began but the stored wool/textiles now outside in the yard were ruined.
Harry Buxton whose company controlled the New Tatler later bought the Assembly Rooms in Leeds and restyled it into the Plaza. He established a very successful cinema circuit in Lancashire and particularly in Manchester where he was the first to bring Cinerama to the provinces. Had he still retained a connection in Bradford then our local cinema scene may well have been very different.
Afterlife and Demolition
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