People of Leeds: A look at the secrets behind the screens at Hyde Park Picture House

Climb up the winding, narrow staircase to the top of Hyde Park Picture House and you’ll find a hidden treasure: the projector room of the world’s only surviving gas-lit cinema.

Saturday, 26th October 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Saturday, 26th October 2019, 6:13 pm

These days, most of the films shown at the cinema are digital - but there’s a certain charm about showing a movie through 35mm film which adds to the authenticity of this gem of a building in the heart of Hyde Park.

Whilst it’s clear that the old-style film reels and projectors are being pushed to one side and replaced by modern hard drives, the Picture House continues to show some of its screenings in the traditional way.

Allan Foster is chief projectionist at the cinema, pulling the strings to make for a seamless viewing experience for those on the other side of the glass.

Mr Foster has always been intrigued by what’s going on behind the scenes at the cinema.

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He said: “From a young age, I worked out that something must be happening behind the glass.”

Allan couldn’t resist turning around to try and catch a glimpse of the backstage action.

“My parents always used to have to tell me to turn around and actually watch the film!”

Mr Foster explained the first time he stepped foot in a projector room was on his 8th birthday as a special treat.

He laughed: “I was told by my parents that it was very difficult to get me out of the projector room!”

Projectionists are the heart and soul of bringing a 35mm film to life.

Mr Foster said: “When we show a film in this way, the projectionist does everything - he does the lights, he does the film, he does the sound…”

Allan has worked as a projectionist since he was 15. Sixty years on and there’s still a light in his eye as he told his story. You can only admire the hard work of My Foster keeping 35mm films alive in Leeds - when I told Allan I had no idea how much goes on behind the glass, he smiled and said: “And indeed you shouldn’t unless it all goes wrong!”