Bradford - Elysian Cinema

Elysian Palace Picture House
Wheater Road,
Lidget Green, Bradford.

Elysian Picture House
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Location and Building
Elysian Matinee 1912 A single storey rather squat looking stone building with pitched slate roof purpose-designed as a picture hall with originally 535 seats including long forms at the front and later reduced to a more comfortable 400. The original very crowded seating was arranged in three blocks with two aisles as seen in the photo taken at a children's matiée. Access to the projection room was via an open wooden staircase at the rear of the stalls. It had a 16ft 6ins wide proscenium opening later increased to 22 feet to accommodate the screen. There were no stage facilities. The simple entrance on the right of the older photograph was in Wheater Road on its south side and only a few yards from the busy Beckside Road.


The Opening
The Elysian opened on Monday 16th September 1912 with a grand double feature . . .

"Dr LaFleur's Theory" - 1912 USA B/W Silent
Starring Maurice Costello, Van Dyke Brooke, Clara Kimball Young.
Also Directed by Costello and Brooke.
"A Reconstructed Rebel" - 1912 USA B/W Silent Western
Starring Hobart Bosworth and Tom Mix.

Admission prices were only 2d, 6d and 9d.


Local Fable
There is a popular local story that Smith Lord (a member of the extensive Lord family who were involved in several cinemas and other Bradford businesses) managed the Elysian during the First World War (1914-18) and had the novel idea for a bit of publicity. He painted a large red spot on the rear gable end of the cinema which was visible for quite some distance. When folk came to have a closer look at the curious red spot they found a very small-sized painted message which read . . .

"Now you have 'spotted' the Elysian Palace
Come inside - Always a good show."
Smith Lord was later to become manager of the Coliseum in Toller Lane.


Originally the proprietor was Robert Richardson who also controlled the Cross Lane Picture House in nearby Great Horton. Richardson was also resident manager in the early 1920's when prices were 3d to 1/-d for twice-nightly shows with two changes per week. By the late 1920's it had come under the control of West Bradford Picture Theatres with W. Farrar and J.W Richardson as directors and William S. Hudson as resident manager.

In the early 1930's the Elysian was leased to Sidney Hiley's Greengates Cinema Company Ltd with Ethel Richardson as manageress who maintained prices of 5d to 9d throughout the 1930's. Sidney Hiley also had interests in his own prestige modern Greengates Cinema, the Imperial Picture House in Horsforth and the Victoria Hall in Queensbury. In September1943 and towards the end of the Second World War, a Mr Preedy of Leeds took over the Elysian as a going concern.


Music then Talkies
There is no record of an orchestra being used at the Elysian, but it is thought that a pianist accompanied some of the silent films. However, in January 1928, for example, the Elysian advertised . . .

"Musical Interlude by Rovilli - Marvellous Melody Maker on the Concertina"
whilst during another week it was . . .
"Musical Interlude by Arco - the celebrated accordionist of good opera and popular melodies"
Like most other cinemas, a sound was installed around 1929/30 - one source suggesting this was the Harrison system similar to that installed in the Coventry Hall cinema in Wakefield Road. Later the Eastern Electric system was fitted which was not known to have been in any other Bradford cinema.

In the 1930s and 1940s seating capacity was 380 (from local Council licensing records) arranged in two blocks with one side aisle and offset (to the left) centre aisle. There were three raised rows of seats at the rear whilst the front row was 15 feet from the screen.


In 1933 just after being leased by Sidney Hiley the cinema closed for a major refurbishment with much needed repairs and alterations with the addition of Roy Firth's sound equipment on second-hand Kalee No 7 projectors and lamphouses. A new screen and proscenium opening increased to 22 feet plus new seating now reduced to 400, carpets and curtains (drapes) were supplied locally by L.B Lockwood & Co of Newall Street, Manchester Road. The cinema then re-opened on Monday 2nd October 1933.


After the War
In the late 1940's the Elysian came under the control of F. Lionel Agar of Ace Cinemas who had various later involvements with the Astra in Bridge Street, Birch in Birch Lane, Coventry in Wakefield Road and Oxford at Undercliffe. Ace Cinemas increased prices to 7d to 1/3d by 1950.

There is no record of either a wide screen or CinemaScope being installed so the Elysian became increasingly unable to compete with the Grange Picture House or the nearby and more modern Arcadian Cinema at Lidget Green.


The Elysian closed on Saturday 12th March 1955 with the final film . . .

"Affair with a Stranger" - 1953 USA B/W 87 mins.
Starring Jean Simmons, Victor Mature and Mary Jo Tarola.


Later Use of Building

The premises were then converted into a garage and warehouse and more recently as Raj Clothing Co - an Asian textile emporium. Nowadays (2010) the business has long since closed and most of the roof is missing as the photograph shows. After almost 100 years it looks as though the building is destined for demolition.


The name 'Elysian'
This has puzzled local people for decades and has sometimes been confused with Elysium (as in Elysian Fields).
The New Oxford Dictionary (UK) says:
Elysian (adj) - relating to, or the characteristics of, heaven or paradise.

Whilst Microsoft Encarta Concise Dictionary (USA) says:
Elysian (adj) - full of, or giving, great pleasure and delight.

So probably in those early halcyon days the name Elysian might have been very appropriate.

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


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