The Leeds cinema which specialised in silent films

This photo rewinds to the 1920s and showcases a queue for the flicks at a city centre cinema.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 11:30 am
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net
PIC: Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

These movie-goers were waiting to get into the Tower Picture House, part of the Grand Arcade on New Briggate.

The cinema opened in April 1920 and specialised in screening silent films before being converted to sound in 1930.

The theatre was able to seat 1,188 and admission prices were: ground floor - 9d (4p) and 1/- (5p); Circle 1/6d (7.5p) and 2/- (10p).

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The opening film was The Kinsmen starring Chrissie White, James Carew and John McAndrew and there was also a Charlie Chaplin film.

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Amazing pictures show life in Leeds during the 1920s

In this view The Heart of a Rose, a British silent drama released in 1919 is being shown.

The Tower Picture House was originally to be called the 'Red Hall' but the managing director, Mr. J. F. Tidswell was concerned it would be referred to locally as the 'Red 'oil'. He had overheard it described as such while travelling on a tramcar.

The term 'silent film' is something of a misnomer, as these films were almost always accompanied by live sounds.

During the silent era that existed from the mid-1890s to the late 1920s, a pianist, theater organist - or even, in large cities, a small orchestra - would often play music to accompany the films. Pianists and organists would play either from sheet music, or improvisation. Sometimes a person would even narrate the intertitle cards for the audience.

The premises of George W Watson, confectioner and tobacconist, can be seen either side of the cinema entrance. The Grand Arcade was built in 1897 by the New Briggate Arcade Company, at the junction of New Briggate and Merrion Street, and the arcades ran eastwards joining Vicar Lane.

It changed its name to Tower Cinema before closing in March 1985 and became a nightclub the following year.

This photo is published courtesy of photographic archive Leodis, which is run by Leeds Library & Information Service. They also run heritage blog The Secret Library Leeds, which provides a behind the scenes look at the Central Library and highlights from its special collections, including rare books hidden away in the stacks.

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