Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Disused Cinema Bradford

Built on the site of the old William Whittaker's brewery which had ceased brewing and malting in June 1928 and following the curve of Brewery Street. This stunning red brick theatre combined with cinema, ballroom, restaurant and tea room café. Costing a quarter of a million Pounds to build, its Moorish style Citadel frontage contrasted with the similarly domed Alhambra Theatre next door.

A proud boast at its opening was that most of the building materials and interior furnishings were provided by Bradford (and surrounding district) firms. Almost five hundred Bradford workmen had built the magnificent theatre in only six months and another four months for fitting out internally.

The New Victoria opened with a spectacular performance at 2-30pm on Monday 22nd September 1930 comprised by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Angus R. Rhodes in the company of other distinguished guests, civic officials and managers of other Bradford city centre cinemas.
In September 1950 it changed its name to Gaumont with its staff wearing the smart new uniforms of blue and gold livery. A refurbishment in early 1954 rejuvenated the interior beauty with decoration and the seemingly endless task of re-carpeting and the installation of a gigantic chandelier suspended from the centre of the massive dome. Many speculated how you would change the bulbs in such an enormous centre piece and at such a height. The answer was all too simple - the complete chandelier was lowered on chains from a winch in the roof down the stalls seats where it could be then be managed with relative ease.

After a period of audience decline, 1968 saw the closure of the Gaumont. Hurried recording sessions were set up to capture the sound of the Wurlitzer organ before it was stripped out. More details of this can be found on the New Victoria/Gaumont Wurlitzer Organ page together with organ history and specification.

The Gaumont closed its doors on 30th November 1968 - a sad end to an exciting era of entertainment in the city

The construction of twin cinemas under the new name of ODEON Film Centre - the old original Odeon Cinema in nearby Manchester Road having closed in March 1969 and the building subsequently demolished. The name Odeon was transferred to this former New Victoria/Gaumont building and has led to some confusion ever since particularly in people's reminiscences.

 The Top Rank Bingo below the cinemas in the former stalls area of the New Victoria/Gaumont had already ceased operation in the Summer of 1997 and bingo transferred to the Rank owned Mecca Bingo in Little Horton Lane. The closure of the Odeon triple cinemas in June 2000 was a sad day for many not least of which the staff who had done so much to keep it going in difficult times. As a cinema it has outgrown its usefulness as the younger audiences shifted to the popcorn and coke swilling multiplexes offering a greater choice of film titles. Perhaps the Odeon's final performance should have been another 'Black Tie' - the funeral tie - event where we could properly mourn the passing of Bradford's most important piece of cinema heritage.

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