"The plush tip-up chairs are all arranged in conformity with the recent regulations of the Licensing Committee and a good slope of the floor ensured each spectator an uninterrupted view of the screen. The ventilation is also good and special attention has been paid to the lighting which consists of 'Equiluxe' ceiling lamps. An efficient band will provide music and matinées will take place every Saturday afternoon at 2.30pm."
At this time there were already twenty-six picture houses, including church halls licensed for films, in Bradford (the Scala was to open the following day) and plans prepared for ten more. The Elite was the first (and believed to be the only) cinema to be opened by this particular Lord Mayor for he only agreed on condition that proceeds went to charity. The Bradford Daily Argus reported that "he had no interest whatever in the house; he hoped it would be conducted along proper lines and that the pictures would have a moral influence for good".
The rival Bradford Daily Telegraph reported that the seemingly disinterested Lord Mayor also said "that until he arrived he did not know to whom the hall belonged, he did not know the gentleman who owned it". In fact, the owners were the Elite Picture House Co Ltd with W. Walmsley as Chairman who moved a tactful vote of thanks to His Worship. The Manager of the new cinema was Arnold M. Crowe.
Films for the Civic Opening included . . .
"Lord Mayor of London's Visit to Harrogate" in which Bradford's Alderman Foster could be plainly seen.The Elite Orchestra played appropriate music.
The advertising proclaimed . . .
"Entire proceeds for distribution among the Bradford Charities.Following the opening the Bradford Daily Telegraph described the Elite thus . . .
"The ceiling is (barrel) vaulted and moulded with 'Equiluxe' lamps inset and the walls are coloured in delicate spring shades and ornamented with festoons of roses and painted floral panels. Seats of 700 (in stalls and circle) in brown plush tip-up chairs . . . rich red carpets. The Programme and Chocolate girls are distinctive in their costumes of the Puritan Maid type".
The Bradford Daily Telegraph continued in another article . . .
"Entering upon its career under auspicious circumstances, the Elite Picture House is a worthy addition to the entertainment of the city. Mr Arnold Crowe, the manager, has had no small experience of the cinema world and he can be relied upon to secure the best."
New Owner and Rebuilding
Eddie Anderton temporarily closed the Elite in 1924 to carry out rebuilding work and greatly enlarging the hall by providing 1,304 seats including many double 'love' seats and a fully equipped stage. The stalls and circle seating was arranged in three blocks with two aisles with the front row 20feet to the screen and the circle has an extra two blocks of seats with centre aisle in a recess at the rear. The new Elite re-opened on Thursday 5th February 1925 at 6-30pm with the film . . .
"Behold This Woman" - 1924 USA B/W Silent 70mins.Billed as "Bradford's latest and most up-to-date cinema, luxurious seating, beautiful lighting effects. Pictures projected from behind the screen. No eye strain - no risk of fire. The only cinema in Bradford with all this improvement". Films were accompanied by the Elite Symphony Orchestra with Norman E. Rouse as Musical Director.
The Yorkshire Evening Argus of 2nd March 1925 advertised . . .
Bradford's finest cinemaThe back projection used was one of only three in West (Riding of) Yorkshire and only seven such installations in the country. The others locally were at the New Pavilion in Morley and the St Thomas's Hall in Sutton-in-Craven. The Elite projectors were made by Powers with high magnification (ie. short focal length) lenses and the image reversed by mirrors.
"Wednesday Matinées at Coliseum 2.30pm during erection of Elite Grand Organ."Installation continued through March/April and completed in early May with the first advertised Grand Organ performances from Monday 18th May 1925. For over 20 years (1930's - 50's) the organ was played by Eddie Barstow previously the resident pianist at Betty's Cafe in Darley Street. The organ was removed in the 1950's and transferred to a school in Wales. In the late 1920's Anderton was also busy with the building of his new Shaftesbury Picture House (1603 seats) in York Road, Leeds in October of 1928.
First with Sound
First Presentation in Bradford of British Talking PicturesThe Telegraph & Argus revelled in this new novelty and struggled to find the right words to describe this new technology with . . .
"The first 'talking film' to be shown in Bradford will be screened at the Elite Picture House tonight at 6.45pm and 8.45pm. The film which is produced by British Talking Pictures employs the 'Phono-Film' principle of sound reproduction namely the recording of sound names at the side of the film and their subsequent translation into sound again simultaneously with the screening of the film. The subject 'The Armistice Film' with military commands etc have been secured. The directors of the Elite have spent over £1000 in getting this latest machine installed."Subsequent talking and singing "shorts" shown at the Elite have included:
"Regents Park Zoo" - a documentary[For the record: the first full length sound-on-film talkie (rather than 'shorts') was "The Singing Fool" starring Al Jolson and shown at the Savoy in Darley Street on 4th March 1929 - three months after the Elite's foray into synchronised sound-on-film.]
Around 1932 Anderton had changed back to normal forward projection from a 'box' at the rear of the balcony. This freed up the stage area for shows. Kalee No 12 projectors by Kershaw's of Leeds were installed.
Films and Variety
New Post-War Owner
The Elite was retained as a quality house whilst the adjacent Coliseum was rather more down market. In 1950 the Elite was refurbished to again be able to take live stage shows and productions by the Heaton Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society. However, its use as a theatre lost popularity and was soon phased out.
Widescreen - Less Seats
"Ionised reflective Star Colour Tone Surround"The effect was similar to the Ionic "floating" screen having diffused dark blue lighting emerging outwards from behind the black masking surrounding the picture and supposed to enhance the viewing experience. The new screen was unveiled to the public on Monday 1st February 1954 with . . .
"Hans Christian Andersen" - 1952 USA Technicolor 112 mins.Three weeks later, Star were to fit a similar screen at their Roxy cinema in Barkerend Road. However, this floating screen gimmick did not seem to capture the imagination of the public and the light effect was soon switched off and so reverting to normal panoramic widescreen with black surround. Later the screen was adapted for use with CinemaScope with motorised masking for changing the aspect ratio.
The large screen necessitated the removal of some front stalls seats and the height of the screen made viewing impossible at the rear of the stall due to the overhang of the balcony with the result that part of the rear stalls was drop-walled off from the rest of the auditorium and so creating a useful waiting area on the now open rear raked floor.
End of Films
"To Sir with Love" - 1967 UK Technicolor 105 mins.In actual fact it ran its final films the following day on Sunday 25th February 1968 with . . .
"The Yellow Teddybears" - 1963 UK B/W 88 mins.
Later life for Elite
Mosque use then Fire
Despite all this, the original projection room at the rear of the balcony still remained in tact with two GB Kalee No 12 machines gathering dust after twenty years being forgotten about.
The late 1990's saw the rebuilding of the former auditorium area again for use solely as the Jamia Mosque and its offices. The original stone built front entrance still remains in use.
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