First look at Hyde Park Picture House's future plans for historic Leeds cinema

A beloved independent cinema in Leeds has revealed how its historic building could look in the future.

The Hyde Park Picture House has been granted planning permission to improve accessibility, create more space and set up a second screen.

Work would also restore its traditional gas lighting and ornate plastering.

After the Grade II-listed cinema celebrated its centenary in 2014, it was decided a plan was needed to make sure it would be around to mark 200 years.

General manager Wendy Cook said: "It's so special and so beautiful that we didn't want to do anything that would completely destroy that thing that was so precious, but at the same time it's inaccessible to large swathes of our community."

Read more: Centenary celebrations for Leeds’s own Hyde Park Picture House

Plans for the cinema are under way. Credit: Hyde Park Picture House and Page \ Park Architects.

Plans for the cinema are under way. Credit: Hyde Park Picture House and Page \ Park Architects.

Currently, the cinema's only toilets are up and downstairs, and the entrance is stepped.

The redevelopment would introduce a ramp and hand railings at the entrance, create an accessible toilet in the foyer, near to the main screen, and there would be a lift to the upstairs and basement rooms, where a second screen is planned.

Seating would also be created in a waiting area where people can mingle ahead of screenings.

Building works, designed by Glasgow-based Page \ Park Architects, are due to begin in summer 2019, and throughout the construction period the cinema will be staging an off-site programme of screenings and events around the city.

How the Picture House would look during the day. Credit: Hyde Park Picture House and Page \ Park Architects.

How the Picture House would look during the day. Credit: Hyde Park Picture House and Page \ Park Architects.

Read more: Leeds’ Hyde Park Picture House marks 103rd birthday

Ms Cook, who has been manager for 15 years, said that the cinema's audience has nearly doubled since 2004, with around 60,000 visiting each year.

It shows 333 films annually but there are around 800 coming out in UK cinemas each year, Ms Cook said.

"I felt like there was a real demand for us to have a large operation. There are so many more wonderful films around than there used to be," she said.

She attributes this partly due to an increase in digital film-making.

The financial benefits of creating the new spaces would also go into reaching out to "work harder for the community".

Dementia, autism and baby-friendly film sessions are already hosted at the Brudenell Road venue, and it is hoped more such programming could be planned after the renovation.

The Picture House is run as a charity through its parent company, Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House (LGTOH).

Its £3.6m project received £122,000 development funding from the Heritage Lottery fund in 2016, which has allowed the organisation to plan for a full £2.3m National Lottery Grant application which is due to be reviewed later this year.

The LGTOH is running an ongoing fundraising campaign to secure the remainder with essential contributions already confirmed from the Pilgrim Trust, the Gwyneth Forrester Trust and the British Film Institute, but the Picture House is still welcoming sponsors who want to help bring the project to fruition.

Leeds City Council, which since 1989 has played a "vital role" in supporting the cinema, according to the business, has also pledged some match-funding.

Paul Scholey, chairman of the LGTOH Board, said “As custodians of three of Leeds'; most historic cultural venues, we’re very proud of the vital role Hyde Park Picture House plays in making our city so special.

"With audiences growing year on year, it has been so important to put in place a plan which preserves this gem of a building."

The redevelopment plans come after the nearby Brudenell Social Club gig venue has also extended with a second performance room.

Read more: Leeds music venue is tuning up for the start of extension work

MONTAGE: Graeme Bandeira

The lasting wow of Now That’s What I Call Music