Leeds Cottage Road Cinema ready for 100th birthday bash

Cottage Road Cinema.
Cottage Road Cinema.
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AS one of only a few cinemas dating back beyond the First World War, Cottage Road Cinema in Leeds has witnessed the growth of the film industry from its humble beginnings.

The cinema has screened everything from silent pictures in the early 20th century to digital epics in 2010 – and is gearing up for a special centenary celebration.

The Headingley picture house turns 100 in July next year and is asking people to rummage through their belongings for old programmes and photographs to chart the cinema’s history.

Proprietor Charles Morris said: “There are very few cinemas which survive from pre-World War One, and even fewer which have been in continuous use as a cinema for all that time, but the Cottage Road is one of them.

“The cinema is not actually purpose-built. It began life as livery stables, then became a motor repair garage. But it was converted to a cinema in 1912.

“It has closed once or twice for alterations but as far as I know it has always been a cinema since then.

“It has certainly never had to suffer the indignity of bingo.”

The Cottage Road Cinema was originally known as The Headingley Picture House and began life in 1835, when it provided stables for Castle Grove, a mansion built for a wealthy silk merchant.

During the early 20th century, Owen Brooks took over the stables from its owner, Mr H.R. Kirk, for use as a motor garage and motorcycle assembly shop.

Mr Brooks was also a pioneering film cameraman, having made short news films for screenings at the Tivoli Theatre in Leeds.

In 1912, Mr Brooks formed a partnership with Reginald Smith and the pair converted the building into the Headingley Picture House, which ran successfully until Mr Smith’s death in 1922.

Entrepreneur and park pioneer Frank T Thompson bought the Headingley Picture House in 1937, but after only a year sold out to Associated Tower Cinemas, who added a balcony and changed the name to Cottage Road Cinema.

The firm spent a further £20,000 in modernising the premises in 1972, when a decision was made to continue its use as a cinema.

Both Cottage Road and nearby cinema, The Lounge in Hyde Park, continued to operate until January 2005, when the Lounge cinema closed – and Cottage Road almost suffered the same fate.

It was due to close at the end of July 2005 and staff were issued with redundancy notices.

But in a last minute deal, the cinema was taken over by Charles Morris and became part of the Northern Morris group.

Mr Morris added: “We will be celebrating the centenary in style, though we haven’t quite decided what format it should take.

“One idea is that we might have a week with different films each day, representing each decade of the cinema’s life.

“We also want to present a historical display and would like to appeal to Yorkshire Evening Post readers for any memorabilia, such as photographs and old programmes, and memories which they have of the cinema.”

Any items of memorabilia should be posted to Cottage Road Cinema, Cottage Road, Headingley, Leeds, LS6 4DD.

For more details, call (0113) 2751606.