Bradford - Greengates Cinema

Greengates Cinema

Former Greengates Cinema

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Location & Building
The building, in a prime position on the north side of New Line near the junction with Harrogate Road, still exists and currently used as a mini-market but it does have an interesting history though very little has been previously documented.

Built in October 1928, it was purpose-designed as a cinema in contrast to others around the city which were in converted halls, for example, the Idle Picture Palace converted from an old Art Metal Works.

The building was designed by Charles Sidney Hiley who became a Director of the newly formed Greengates Cinema Company Limited and also manager of the cinema when it opened. His father Zac Hiley was Managing Director with Miss Nellie Walpole also a director.

Sidney Hiley, a former draper in Harrogate Road, was also a local builder who not only built the cinema but also quite a number of houses in the Fraser Road, Carr Road and Crowther Avenue area of nearby Calverley together with two semis in Elder Street at the side of the cinema and Apperley Gardens between the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

The exterior was of red brick with large pebbledashed panels and the front entrance faced with specially made white glazed ceramic LEFCO tiles from the Leeds Fireclay Company. The name Greengates Cinema was highlighted in green.


The Interior
The cinema was built as a single storey auditorium with 595 seats in three blocks with two aisles on a raked (sloping) floor with two side exits and two exits either side of the proscenium along with toilet facilities behind the splay walls. The proscenium opening 22 feet wide offered a spacious stage with lighting and it was envisaged that dressing rooms would be added later but there is no record that this did actually happen. The large screen was fronted by a fringed border (pelmet) together with track curtains (drapes) which could be opened and closed by hand winding but motorised curtains came later. A small orchestra pit with a railed curtain was included.

Greengates Cinema in 1928

The auditorium was surrounded by imitation oak panelling rising to about six feet from the floor, the remainder of the walls were ornamented with pilasters and painted in a buff colour. The barrel-vaulted ceiling with plaster ornamentation had six elaborate pendant tungsten lanterns with tassles and each on a chain which could be winched down to seating level for cleaning and lamp replacement. An illuminated clock was provided on the right-hand splay wall. Secondary lighting was provided by gas.

The comfortable (by 1928 standards) seating upholstered in brown plush together with the curtains were supplied by L.B Lockwood & Co of Newall Street, Manchester Road in Bradford. In fact, all materials and labour were supplied by local firms.

Ventilation was an important design feature of the new cinema. Every alternate seat had a brass ashtray as smoking was popular in those days. The ceiling decoration included many ventilation grills and a large exit cowl on the roof aided by a (rather noisy) extractor fan.


Projection Room
The projection room was claimed to be one of the most spacious in the Bradford district and fitted initially with two Kalee No 8 projectors, one of which had a slide showing attachment - slides shown were usually of local advertisers. A Kalee spotlight was used for the musical interludes. Kalee fire traps were provided which could be operated from the projection box or from the entrance hall. A Mr Swallow was the first projectionist.

In the generating room a Flathers motor generator was installed; whilst the Bradford Corporation's 230 volt mains supply was reduced to 70 volts for projection purposes.

In 1930 the British Acoustic (BA) sound system was added. A former projectionist, Geoff Hewitt, recalls that around 1948/49 the Western Electric set (from the Melbourne cinema in Leicester) was added to the then Ross Projectors. Later Kalee 11 projectors with Gaumont-Kalee President arcs were installed.


The Opening
The official opening on Thursday 4th October 1928 at 7.15pm was a special film programme from which half the proceeds were donated to Mr Brooke of the Greengates & Apperley Bridge Nursing Association in a cheque for £10 given by Miss Nellie Walpole, director.
The opening films were . . .

"Inconstant Youth" - Believed to be also known as . . .
"Restless Youth" - USA 1928 B/W Silent 65mins.
Starring Marceline Day and Ralph Forbes.
"The Romantic Age" - USA 1927 B/W Silent 56mins.
A drama directed by Robert Florey.
Starring Eugene O'Brien, Alberta Vaughan and Bert Woodruff.
The programme includes a solo Cello performance by S. Ashforth.
The following Monday 8th Ocober 1928 . . .
"A Marriage of Convenience" - B/W Silent
(no details available)
The Telegraph & Argus reported . . .
"The hall with a capacity of 595 is luxuriously appointed and up-to-date with a motor park adjoining. Music is at present provided by a trio of instrumentalists but it is proposed to install an organ and engage a full orchestra".
The Greengates advertisement in the T&A Entertainments column of Saturday 13th October 1928 extolled . . .
"A very beautiful little hall. Is worth a visit by all who appreciate well known pictures. The seating, carpeting and general arrangements are excellent. The music is good and the lighting is exquisite."


Cinema Organ
Fitton & Haley Movie Organ
The splay walls either side of the proscenium each had a large opening in the upper part to accommodate the pipework for an organ which was late in being fitted thus necessitating these openings to covered with a curtain and a notice to say "Space reserved for Organ". Therefore during the first few weeks after the opening silent films were accompanied by a piano situated in the curtained-off "orchestra" pit in front of the stage.

The organ was a Fitton & Haley orchestral "Movie Organ" with its tab stops arranged around a polished dark wood horseshoe console with two 63-key manuals, a full pedal board and three expression pedals. It also had many special effects stops needed for silent film accompaniment.

The organ keyboard console was installed to the left hand side of the pit although its cabling would have have allowed it to be positioned central.

Fitton and Haley Movie Organ Specification

The organ was the only one of its kind installed in a Bradford cinema and was constructed at the Bram-Stan Organ Works in Bramley/Stanningley near Leeds. It is believed that the Greengates Cinema was the first in Bradford to be purpose-built with organ chambers (for pipework) as other halls with organs were conversions to older properties and the Bradford city-centre purpose-designed giant New Victoria was built two years later in 1930 and the Ritz in 1939. A the Greengates cinema the organ was divided on either side of the proscenium with Grand and Pedal on the right and Orchestral on the left. Separate blowers (with separate switches) were provided for each chamber.

A possible explanation for the delay in fitting the organ might be that Fitton & Haley were also supplying and fitting a similar 2-manual "Mighty Orchestral Organ" in the New Cinema (later to become Essoldo) in Railway Road, Ilkley. This should have been ready for its opening in May 1928 but was not completed until fine months later in October 1928. The Greengates organ was similarly delayed probably as a result of a 'knock-on' effect.

The Fitton & Haley organ was played by Tom D. O'Keefe, a local potato merchant, at weekday film performances whilst on Sundays he would play the traditional pipe organ at the local Brunswick Methodist Chapel. He was later to become involved with the Eccleshill Operatic & Dramatic Society where he became Musical Director and in producing amateur musicals in collaboration with Ada Clayton Smith.


Value for Money
The shows were once nightly at 7.15pm with 6.30 and 8.40pm on Saturdays. Matinées were on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm. At the opening the prices were 6d, 8d, 1s and 1/3d and half price for children except for Saturday nights when it was all full price. However, in 1929 and lasting 10 years after the opening the 1/3d price had disappeared but all other prices remained static. Even in 1950 under Segelman's ownership the prices ranged from 6d to 1/9d these being the same as Segelman's Regal at Five Lane Ends but dearer than the old Idle Picture House less than a mile away. All were significantly cheaper than the city centre cinemas.

For many years the Greengates Cinema offered two programmes each week. The showing of films on Sundays was totally unheard of in those early days.


Adults Only!
On Monday 4th July 1938 the Greengates dared to offer the controversial film . . .

"Damaged Lives" - 1933 USA/Canada B/W Drama 61mins.
Starring Lymon Williams, Diane Sinclair and Harry Myers.
The Greengates monthly programme said "No children under 16 will be admitted whether accompanied by parent or not" - clearly this was for adults only. So what was this ground-breaking film about? It seems the plot was based around an extra-marital affair leading to a young couple contracting venereal disease - daring stuff for 1933/38. The film was later re-issued in 1958 under the title of The Shocking Truth.


Time to Update
As time went by there were several expensive updates of the projection equipment with the addition of sound-on-disc and around 1931 the British Acoustic Sound system with optical synchronised sound-on-film was installed. The organ was not made redundant but continued to be played regularly for many years.

Clearly Sidney Hiley was ahead of his time and his Greengates Cinema Company was also involved in a short term (1930-34) leasing of the Imperial Picture House (dubbed locally as "T'Owd Tin Tabernacle") in Horsforth before handing it back to Edwin Hobson the original owner. Another involvement was with the Victoria Hall at Queensbury where films were shown for a number of years. A 10-year lease 1933-1943 was also taken on the Elysian Palace picture house at Lidget Green.

In April 1939 the Greengates cinema was bought by Sydney Segelman of Leeds, one of the four Segelman brothers collectively trading as JOGS Cinemas. Sidney Segelman was also involved with running the Regal Cinema at Five Lane Ends and the Empire at Rawdon. Seating was reduced to 575. Around 1954 a widescreen was fitted but actual CinemaScope was never installed.


The Greengates Cinema continued for another 20 years and finally closed on Saturday 4th April 1959 with the final films . . .

"Annie Get Your Gun" - 1950 USA Technicolor 107mins.
Starring Betty Hutton, Howard Keel and Louis Calhern.
"Nothing but Trouble" - 1944 USA B/W 79mins.
Starring Laurel & Hardy and Mary Boland.
The age of these films and their consequent lower hiring costs perhaps indicate the decline of the cinema business.


Supermarket Conversion
The cinema building was empty for quite some time and the organ was dismantled and broken up for spares whilst the wooden console was burnt by the contractors doing the conversion of the building.

Greengates Supermarket

A major reconstruction followed where the internal floor, previously sloping (raked), was levelled providing storage space below. The frontage was rebuilt to provide two storeys of accommodation. The former auditorium became the Greengates Supermarket around 1967 whilst the new front first floor became a café "The Captain's Table - SS Greengates" and characterised by a large lifebelt sign outside.

Later the Co-op took over the store and for the past few years Netto Food Stores have been running it as a supermarket adding a veranda at the front and extending the left hand side of the building to create more floor space. A goods lift was installed in what would have been left-hand side of the (now removed) proscenium to convey goods from the store room below to the shop floor level. Adjacent to the lift is the service ladder up the wall into the void above the suspended ceiling from where the original cinema ceiling remains virtually untouched. The front upper floor is leased out as office accommodation.

Copyright ©2004, Colin Sutton.
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