Bradford - Theatre de Luxe

Theatre de Luxe
Bridge Street,

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Hidden away inside a motley collection of old buildings fronting on to Bridge Street on the city centre side of St George's Hall was the former British Galleries with a small entrance between the row of shops.

It was in late 1910 that the British Galleries, a long narrow hall with a pitched roof was converted into he Electric Theatre de Luxe - a silent picture house to compete with the nearby St George's Hall and Temperance Hall which at that time only showed films on an occasional basis when the halls were not being used for something else. The Electric Theatre de Luxe was to be Bradford's first regular cinema with continuous performances as opposed to the separate 'houses' adopted by other halls.
[For the record it was a month later that Bradford's first purpose-built cinema (rather than a conversion of existing hall) opened as the King's Hall Picture Theatre in White Abbey Road.]

The location of the new Electric Theatre de Luxe was described some years afterwards as . . .
"An area abutting on Leeds Road, Bridge Street and Hall Ings. This area was fully built upon but the style of the buildings which were of some age gave no credit to the city. The conglomeration of structures on this site had been hacked about on many occasions and a narrow entrance led to one of the earliest picture houses in Bradford - the Theatre de Luxe."

The Bridge Street entrance was in a block known as Commercial Buildings where No 5 was the cinema entrance with a row of shops on either side housing confectioner, hairdresser, photographer, auctioneer, tripe dresser and tailor.


The Building
The marbled entrance led to the auditorium in the converted art gallery with a flat floor and a small balcony at one end. The picture hall with 300 seats was approximately 30 feet wide and 75 feet long (scaled from plans) and running lengthways parallel to Bridge Street.

The cinema conversion was the idea of the Pathé Frères Co who were establishing themselves in the north of England and soon to have a film renting business in Bingley. The pleasing cinema interior was decorated in cream and gold.


The Opening
The first manager to be appointed was Harry Leacey and the new Electric Theatre de Luxe opened on Saturday 14th January 1911 with a film programme including . . .

"Coloured Studies of Chrysanthemums"
"Pathé Gazette" - the original Animated Picture News.

Public shows began the following week for which local newspaper advertising proclaimed . . .
Opens Monday 16th January 1911
(formerly the British Galleries)
Continuous performances 2.30 to 10.30pm.
The World's Best and Latest Pictures.
Bijou orchestra.
Afternoon Tea served between 3.30 and 5.30pm to patrons in the stalls.
Complete change of programme every Monday and Thursday.
Admission: Area 3d, Stalls 6d.
Children 4d to Stalls.

The following day it was reported . . .

"A new picture show on original lines was commenced yesterday in a most auspicious manner. The charmingly decorated hall, with its thoroughly comfortable chairs, was constantly filled during the day.
During the daytime another novelty was introduced with the serving of afternoon tea, a feature which most certainly will give the entertainment an additional attraction in the eyes of the ladies. 'Pathé Gazette' which gives the pictorial news of the world showing incidents in all parts of the globe."

Whilst another report said . . .

"The surroundings are so pleasant and such good care is taken of the visitor that the new entertainment can scarcely fail to be a great value."

During the first couple of weeks it was showing such films as . . .

"Ranch Life in the Great South West"
"The Swiss Guide"
"The Little Station Agent"
"Parisian Hairdressing".


Continued Success
By March 1911 its popularity had grown and now styled itself as . . .

"The most luxurious cinematograph theatre in Yorkshire.
Prices 3d, 6d. Few Special seats 1/-d."
The 'specials" were probably in the small balcony.

Colour films were very much sought after and from Monday 18th September 1911 it was . . .

"Fine coloured cinematography
'Canals and Rivers of Spain'
and a host of other subjects.
Admission 3d and 6d."

The Pathé Frères Co booked some of the best films to be shown in Bradford at this time and from Monday 18th November 1912 boasted . . .

"The Management have secured at enormous expense the
exclusive rights for one week only the love story of
"Queen Bess" - 1912 France B/W Silent 40 mins.
(aka "Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth"
and aka "Queen Elizabeth" in UK.)
Starring Sarah Bernhardt, Lou Tellegen and Max Maxudian.
Supported by a Renowned Company of Celebrated Artistes.
The above film cost 7,000GBP to produce.
To be seen only at the Theatre de Luxe.
Admission 3d and 6d. Reserved Stalls 1/-d.


Name Change
Up until about 1913 it had been called Electric Theatre de Luxe, but by 1914 it just called itself Theatre de Luxe and in February 1914 the Bradford Daily Argus commented on its latest and rather novel programme . . .
"The H. Leacey, the manager of the Theatre de Luxe, is full of original ideas and his latest is a programme made in the form of a fan. The pictures (films), with accompanying musical items, for the first part of the week are printed on one side, and for the second part of the week on the reverse side. It is quite a dainty novelty."

After the First World War had started in 1914 the Theatre de Luxe proudly announced that . . .

"Café (Collinson's) served free 1.30 to 9.30pm"

Collinson's coffee was considered quite a luxury in those days. The idea of serving to patrons was one of the French ideas brought to Bradford by Pathé Frères as was the 'continuous' showing idea which was popular on the Continent and successfully tried earlier at Pathé London picture halls.


The 1920's
The proprietors were now Theatre de Luxe (Bradford) Ltd with A.N. Ardagh as resident manager and programmes were booked in conjunction with the Clayton Picture House also under the same control. Advertising at the Theatre de Luxe indicated . . .

"Orchestra afternoon and evening
Musical Director Mr A. Hepton.
Tea with biscuits served free daily 2.30 to 4.30pm
to all Stalls and Balcony patrons."


Organ and Orchestra
By September 1922 the musical items were provided by . . .

"Orchestral Organ and Orchestra afternoon and evening.
Special violin solos will be rendered daily by Mr J.T Stevenson.
A programme of quantity and quality."

It is believed that the orchestral organ was an Orchestrion mechanical organ used for short periods to give the musicians a rest break. A similar mechanical organ was installed at the Eccleshill Picture House.

Live music was further emphasised with . . .
"In addition to this gigantic (film) programme, the Royal Salon Symphony Orchestra, which is now a permanent feature of this Theatre, will play specially synchronised music every evening."


Cinema Closure
After 12 reasonably successful years there was quite a lot of competition in the city centre from the nearby St George's Hall plus the larger Empire Super Cinema, New Bradford Picture House, Picturedrome, Picture House (Thornton Rd) and a little further away was the Central Hall, Grand, Regent, Savoy, Temperance Hall and Theatre Royal.

With only 300 seats, the Theatre de Luxe was really now too small and it closed on Saturday 16th June 1923 after the screening of . . .

"Blood and Sand" - 1922 USA B/W Silent 80 mins.
Starring Rudolph Valentino, Rosa Rosanova and Leo White.


Dancing then Demolition
Two years after it closed as a cinema the seats, screen and projector having been removed and the flat floor of the former art gallery was now to become a dance floor.

The premises re-opened on Saturday 3rd October 1925 as the Bradford Palais de Danse with Albert Jowett as manager. Its advertising slogan on handbills was . . .

"Billy Brooklyn Band in residence.
Learners our Speciality - Step this Way."

This venture lasted less than two years as the premises, and indeed the whole site, were demolished in 1927.

Several years later in 1937, Britannia House was built on the same site for Bradford Corporation office accommodation and still remains operational in 2004.

Copyright ©2004, Colin Sutton.
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.


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