Bradford - Arcadian Cinema

Arcadian Cinema
Legrams Lane/Ingleby Road,
Lidget Green, Bradford.


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Theatrical Site History
The history of the Arcadian starts back in 1908 when a wooden pavilion was constructed at the prominent north-western corner of the junction of Legrams Lane and Ingleby Road where its first occupant, a Mr Mann (who also had a grocer's shop in Great Horton Road), opened in May 1908 as an extension of the seaside concert party idea with Browning, Mann and Mitchells Concert Party "Arcadian Cadets in a Mélange of Melody and Mirth".

The Arcadian Pavilion closed during the period of the First World War (1914-1918) and then purchased by Ernest Binns in partnership with J.W Bilbrough and with Tom Holmes as manager they re-opened in 1919 with his "Merry Arcadians" Concert Party until the week commencing Monday 18th October 1920 when Binns presented his final performances before taking his concert party to a new residency in Morecambe (aka "Bradford-by-the-Sea") to delight holidaymakers there for another three decades. Many prominent figures of the variety stage and early screen appeared at the Arcadian Pavilion, most notably Max Miller, Sydney Howard and Milton Hayes. Maude Evans Silhouettes Company was the last to appear in 1930.

In 1931 the wooden structure was badly damaged by fire and remained in ruins for eight years until demolished and the site cleared for building a new cinema.

Meanwhile, Ernest Binns and his now named 'Arcadian Follies' were not forgotten by Bradford people who continued to flock to Morecambe. On completion of their summer season the Arcadian Follies would return to Bradford for a week at the Elite Picture House in Toller Lane which had excellent stage facilities.

The original Arcadian Pavilion was one of five dotted around Bradford; these being the Alfresco Pavilion at Frizinghall which was preceded by the Frizinghall Pavilion behind the old Turf Hotel, Shipley Pavilion in Bradford Road (later to become the Prince's Hall cinema on the same site) and Undercliffe Pavilion in Northcote Road.


New Super-Cinema
In 1939 with the old Arcadian Pavilion site now cleared for a super-cinema (in fact, the third and last such super-cinema) to be built by Shack Hyde's Glenroyal Cinema Company of Shipley as part of his expanding A.S Hyde Circuit. The previous two super-cinemas were his flagship Glenroyal at Shipley in 1932 and the Glenroyal at Horsforth in 1937. More information on Shack Hyde and his cinemas can be found in the Shipley Cinemas History section. As this time Hyde was also in control of the older Elite and Coliseum cinemas in Toller Lane.

Recognising the long theatrical history of this site, Hyde wisely named his new magnificent edifice Arcadian and was to incorporate all the latest trappings and equipment expected by cinemagoers. It is important to note that the Arcadian was the last new cinema to be built in the Bradford area and it it would be 30 years to 1969 before another new cinema (the twin Cinecentre/Penthouse) was to be built in the city centre.


The Building
Late 1939 saw the erection of a purpose designed steel-frame with high quality red brick and fine white terracotta curved frontage to a simple yet impressive design complete with a wrought iron canopy to extend the full length of the facade. It was to be ultra-modern with a hint of Art-Deco.

The light, airy foyer situated on the left corner of the building was decorated in cream shading to amber and relieved with delicate tints of pink and green. This motif was continued in the inner foyer which was in the form of a cross-over corridor (behind the auditorium) from which two sets of double doors opened into the rear stalls where seating was in three blocks with two aisles; there was no interior cross-over other than in front of the stage between the two front-side exits.

Access to the circle from the foyer was via stairs leading to the first floor circle foyer in a building void under the rear balcony. Here there were toilets and a feature fish tank and a small sitting Buddha statue - there was one in all of A.S Hyde's cinemas. Entry into the circle was via two vomitory-style entrances at each side of the circle with connecting cross-aisle. Seating in front and rear circle was in three block with two stepped aisles.

The lofty auditorium with barrel-vaulted ceiling and stylish pendant light fittings. A feature was the fluted splay walls and proscenium arch relieved in pastel shades of gold, green and mauve, banded in silver with curtains to tone. The splay walls had the added luxury of concealed lighting and special effects.

Arcadian Rear

The proscenium at 38 feet wide opened to a stage 15 feet deep with two dressing rooms. The screen was set at the back of the stage with screen tabs and house tabs, footlights and top battens. (As a matter if interest, the proscenium opening and stage size were the same as the new Ritz cinema in the city centre.)

A large brick-built extension at the rear of the stage provided additional space for the loudspeaker system behind the screen. The new Arcadian seated 1,000 people with 680 in the stalls and 320 in the balcony in luxurious tip-up chairs. Council licensing records actually indicate 999 total seats.


Wartime Blackout
The Arcadian was so nearly complete when the Second World War started that it was allowed to be finished and with a blackout in force it was necessary to introduce a novel scheme of ultra-violet lighting in the vestibule which gave the effect of luminous paint and provided sufficient illumination without contravening the blackout regulations. There was no external lighting, neon signs or display panels. Even street lighting was switched off.


Latest Equipment
The projection room at the rear of the balcony and two projectors, slide projector, spotlight and Western Electric sound system (this was Shack Hyde's preferred system) were fitted into this ultra-modern super-cinema. Local press reported . . .

"A fire extinguishing apparatus on the two projectors which is so efficient that if the film caught fire, the flames would be automatically extinguished"
- a most desirable feature in those days of highly flammable nitrate film stock.
The Arcadian also boasted . . .
"an uncanny new American device which produces an amazing variety of spectacular lighting effects - there are only about a dozen of these machines in the whole country".
A local man, Harry Moss, was contractor for the electrical work.


The Opening
The Ceremonial Opening on Saturday 16th March 1940 was by the Lord Mayor of Bradford (Alderman Meredith F. Titterington) with Clifford Cawthorne JP and Chairman of the Glenroyal Cinema Company responding by quoting some of the history of the site adding "Every effort has been made to preserve the traditions of the site which has been associated with the entertainment of Bradford people since 1908 when the Arcadian Pavilion was opened". A collection was made in aid of the Lord Mayor's wartime Services Comfort Fund.

The audience then enjoyed the feature film . . .

"The Spy in Black" - 1939 UK B/W 82 mins.
(aka "U-Boat 29" in the USA)
Starring Conrad Veidt, Sebastian Shaw and Valerie Hobson.
Bradford's latest Super Cinema.
The same film then opened to the public on the following Monday 18th March 1940 with prices of 6d and 9d in the stalls and 1/- for the balcony.

Coincidentally, at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre during the same week were the "Arcadian Follies" headed by Harry Korris - another Morecambe (and Bradford) favourite comedian.

Meanwhile the Arcadian Cinema continued up to Easter 1940 with . . .

"Les Miserables" - 1935 USA B/W 108 mins.
Starring Charles Laughton, Frederick March and Cecil Hardwick.
with a special one-off showing on Good Friday of . . .
"Elephant Boy" - 1937 UK B/W 80 mins.
Starring Sabu, W.E Holloway and Walter Hudd.
"The Four Just Men" - 1939 UK B/W 85mins.
Starring Hugh Sinclair, Francis L. Sullivan and Frank Lawton.

Boom Times
The Arcadian did particularly well during the war period and into the early 1950's. Comfort and cleanliness was appreciated by its patrons who still have fond memories. Visitors to the balcony will remember the tropical fish in tanks and the mysterious green Buddha statue - the raison d'être for the Buddha is explained in the Shipley Cinemas History section.

Following successful conversions at his other cinemas, Shack Hyde installed a much bigger panoramic curved screen and from Monday 4th January 1954 the Arcadian boasted the new "Wide Dimension Screen" offering a larger and more impressive picture. This was adapted for CinemaScope in 1955.

The Arcadian super-cinema was living up to its name and continued to be the premier cinema in the district completely outshining the nearby and much older Empress and Elysian picture houses and eventually outliving them.


Quiet Closure
Whilst many other cinemas had closed during the late 1950's and early 1960's, the Arcadian finally closed its doors on Saturday 8th February 1964 with the film . . .

"Jason and the Argonauts" - 1963 USA/UK Eastmancolor 104 mins.
Starring Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack and Gary Raymond.

Shack Hyde said "There are no special farewell plans for the closure of the Arcadian. It will fold up and steal quietly away".


An Afterlife
Arcadian 1968 Following the closure plans were submitted to the Council to convert the building into a night club but after an inquiry permission was refused. Asian films were shown for a while then the premises re-opened as the Arcadian Bingo Club.

In October 1970 it reverted back to being a cinema when it opened as the Commonwealth Film Club.

In 1979 the T&A (7 Feb 1979) conducted a survey of conditions in the city's four Asian cinemas (Majestic, Liberty, Sangeet and Arcadian) and the Arcadian came out best for heating levels and maintenance of cinema and was "of a fairly high decorative standard" together with "toilet paper and soap is available from the pay box". Heat insulation plans were in hand at that time. All this adding to the increasing running costs.

In 1986 the Arcadian building was put up for sale by Eddisons for £65,000 and after a year on the market it was eventually sold for re-development.


The building was demolished in 1987 and the site is now a tyre/exhaust and motor spares garage.


Official Opening - 16th March 1940
(Yorkshire Post)

Alhambra, Bradford - March 1940
(Yorkshire Post)

Spy in Black
(cinema poster 1939)

Jason & The Argonauts
(cinema poster 1963)



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Additional images added January 2014