Bradford - King's Hall

King's Hall Picture Theatre
White Abbey Road,

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Built in a prime location on the busy White Abbey Road at the point where it joins Westgate. The New King's Hall - named after the newly crowned King George V - has the distinction of being the very first purpose-built picture house in Bradford. Others were already operating in and around Bradford but they had all been conversions from other premises, eg roller skating rinks or old chapels. The new hall was surrounded by streets of densely populated terraced houses.


The Building
King's Hall Picture Theatre The two-storey stone building had quite an imposing exterior with seven steps the full width of the front façade leading up to the two central doors leading to Stalls and Front Area respectively. The extreme left-hand door leading to the Back Area and the extreme right-hand door was for Exit only.

The attractive façade was topped by an ornate semi-circular piece flanked by two square and equally ornate towers each supporting a dome and flagpole and all floodlit at night. Although purpose-designed as a cinema it still tended to look more like a chapel than a picture theatre from the outside.

The local newspaper reported . . .

"The ornamental façade at once arrests the attention of the passers-by. Illuminated at night by massive arc lamps, the effect is still more striking."


Inside the single deck auditorium had 580 seats and was described at the time as . . .
"Furnished very tastefully and comfortably. All the seats are on the ground floor, which being sloped permits of those at the back of the hall as good a view of the stage as those in front."

There was a fully equipped small stage and dressing room for it was planned from the start to cater for both films and live variety acts. The projection room was at first floor level along with offices.

The King's Hall had a regular staff of eight from the manager and projectionist to six smartly uniformed staff including two burly doormen in liveried outfit and peaked cap.


The Opening
The New King's Hall Picture Theatre, to give it its full name, opened on Monday 20th February 1911 at 7.30pm with a . . .

Grand Opening Programme of Pictures and Varieties
The Cream of the Picture World
The very best of Talent
Complete change of programme each week
Popular Prices 3d, 4d and 6d.

The opening programme comprised . . .

"The Pirates of 1920" - 1911 UK B/W Silent 15mins.
Great sensational picture directed by David Aylott.
"A Trip to the Rockies" - USA B/W Silent.
"The Miser's Child" - 1910 USA B/W Silent.
Directed by Sidney Olcott.

Whilst appearing on the stage . . .

Two First Class Acts
The Three Sisters Herbert - dancers
Evelyn and Chip in a comedy scene
Plus singers and dancers in support.

The popularity of the opening night at the King's Hall was such that "the size of the crowds required two policemen to regulate the traffic". The film and variety continued twice nightly at 7.00 and 9.00pm with matinées on Saturdays at 2.30pm.


Special Event
On Saturday 16th November 1912 the King's Hall, as it now simply called, advertised a special and topical event . . .

Twice Nightly at 7 and 9pm
The Great Ocean Catastrophe illustrating
"The Loss of the Titanic" - 1912 USA B/W Silent
A real picture, not tableaux or series of views.
The realism astound all who see it.
Every incident shown during the voyage up to the
time of and including the great disaster
Plus on stage:
Varieties - Fred Robinson and Walter Clifford.

The crowds flocked to see this dramatic spectacle which was also to be seen at many other picture houses. It was this tragedy and the events of the 1914-18 war which established the newsreels which quickly became an important part of the film programme.


At its opening the proprietors of the King's Hall were The Bradford Picture Theatre Co with William Minto as manager. Hibbert's Pictures leased the hall for a while and the flamboyant Herbert Butler formerly of the Queen's Hall in Laisterdyke became the new lessee and manager in August 1913. Later Butler was to return to the Queen's Hall. New Century Pictures with Harry Day had a brief involvement.

In the early 1920's Regent Pictures (Batley) Ltd with George Day as its managing director took control and installed Herbert Hebden at manager. By 1926 George Day of Batley was listed as the new proprietor with Charles William Clow (1889-1971) formerly manager of the Regent in Batley and now manager of the King's Hall where he was to stay until the cinema closed after which Clow moved off to Grimsby where he became a councillor and manager of the new Plaza Cinema.


Successful 1920's
In the week commencing Monday 1st November 1926 with three changes per week, it was showing on Monday/Tuesday 1/2 November 1926 . . .

"Somebody's Darling" - 1925 UK B/W Silent
Starring Betty Balfour, Forrester Harvey and Rex O'Malley.

With a Children's Matinée on Tuesdays after school at 4.30pm for a mere 1d and 2d admission.

Whilst on Wednesday evening only 3rd November 1926 . . .

"Love & Glory" - 1924 USA B/W Silent
Starring Charles de Rochefort and Wallace MacDonald.
Plus on-stage a Jazz Interlude by
Lockwood's Jazz Orchestra.

and on Thursday/Friday/Saturday 4/5/6th November 1926 . . .

"The Best Bad Man" - 1925 USA B/W Silent
Starring Tom Mix, Buster Gardner and Cyril Chadwick.

with a Children's matinée on Saturday at 2.30pm for only 2d and 3d admission.
The adult prices for the evening performances were 3d, 4d, 5d and 6d.

Later in 1928 under George Day's ownership with Charlie Clow as manager tried a similar pattern of programme. Children's matinées on Tuesday and Saturdays were only 1d admission and no tax. For example on Monday/Tuesday 22/23rd October 1928 . . .

"Go Get 'Em Garringer" - 1919 USA B/W Silent
Starring Franklyn Farnum, Helene Chadwick and Joe Rickson.
Wednesday 24th October 1928 . . .
"The Scarlet Car" - 1917 USA B/W Silent
Starring Franklyn Farnum, Edith Johnson and Lon Chaney.
Thursday/Friday/Saturday 25/26/27th October 1928 . . .
"Wolf Law" - 1922 USA B/W Silent
Starring Frank Mayo, Sylvia Breamer and Tom Guise.

Special music was provided at each performance by . . .

"Mr Walter Lockwood - Yorkshire's finest cinema pianist.
Just come and here him."

Adult prices for the evening shows were now increased to 4d Front seats, 6d Area and 8d Stalls including the new tax. A war tax had been introduced in 1916 and this was later to become known as 'Entertainment Tax'.


Fade Out
In the years that followed, the mix of films and simple variety became continuous from 6.30 to 10.30pm and the King's Hall promoted itself as "The Family House of the District" and the increasingly large Irish Catholic community of that time.

Talkies were never installed and the King's Hall quietly closed its doors on Tuesday 30th September 1930 and only a week after the opening of the luxurious and gigantic New Victoria Theatre/Cinema less than a mile away in the city centre.

The King's Hall building was then soon demolished for the widening of White Abbey Road.

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


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