Bradford Odeon aka New Victoria Cinema.
"The one place that has been eluding me over the last year (and quite a few experienced explorers since it was last done a few years back) has been the old Odeon which stands right in the centre of Bradford overlooking the maginficent town hall and on the fringe of the new developments looking forlorn and like a fat ugly bird at a prom night that no one wants to dance with!" - Squirrel 911
New Victoria - In the 1920s PCT (Provincial Cinematograph Theatres) originally called their cinemas Regent - as at Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, London (Regent Street), Hanley, Ipswich, Preston, Sheffield and Stamford Hill. However 1930 saw a change of name to New Victoria at Bradford, Edinburgh and London - the latter is now called Apollo Victoria Theatre.
The Regent Preston was also renamed as the fourth New Victoria of the PCT circuit. So that is how it got its name.
Built in 1930 and was one of the biggest English cinemas outside of London, complete with restaurant and a ballroom. Its huge fan-shaped and domed auditorium originally designed for 3,500 seats at its opening but later reduced to 3,318 for more comfort.
The octagonal cinema entrances were originally under the domed towers at each end of the building spanning Brewery Street (afterwards renamed New Victoria Street and nowadays Prince's Way). Connecting the two entrances was the sweeping curve of the stalls foyer or crush hall with its polished brass barriers, potted palms, huge settees, mirrors and an ornate marble fireplace midway down its huge length. The panels between the pillars were covered with a rich damask paper with a pattern copied from an original Italian Damask. Circle and balcony patrons also had ornate mirrored and carpeted lounges for queuing.
Lifts were provided adjacent to each lobby for speedy access to the top balcony.
The huge proscenium opening 50 feet wide and 35 feet high with a theatre stage at 70 feet wide (including wings) and 45 feet deep with a flytower and complete with 10 dressing rooms capable of accommodating large spectacular touring shows. The New Vic, as it quickly became known, boasted a moving stage, not a rotating stage but a full width platform which moved (hand cranked) from the back to the footlights carrying a full orchestra with it.
Facilities included a safety curtain, band and chorus rooms and scenery dock.
The screen was positioned about 10 feet upstage from the footlights which meant a "throw" of almost 140 feet from the projector. As the balcony seats extended back over the projection room, it meant that the rear seats of the top balcony were 170 feet from the screen. The screen was described as an "expanding screen" (a similar screen was installed at the Rialto in Leeds around the same time) and would automatically expand and contract according to the action and was quite impressive when at its full size.
The spectacular afternoon opening 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.
The Beatles first played the Gaumont on Saturday 2nd February 1963 but only as a 'bottom of the bill' support act to 16-year old star Helen Shapiro with her No 1 hit in 1961 "Walking Back to Happiness".
The Gaumont was the first cinema in Bradford to be fitted with CinemaScope in 1954 at a cost of over 6,500 GBP with half the cost going into installing the three channel stereophonic sound - Left, centre and right speakers behind the screen. The fourth 'ambient' surround channel was not fitted due to much increased cost for such a huge auditorium with three levels. 20th Century Fox anxious to promote their new CinemaScope would not financially subsidise the ambient sound.
After a period of audience decline, the Gaumont closed its doors on 30th November 1968 - a sad end to an exciting era of entertainment in the city. The final film in this vast auditorium was - "Rio Conchos" - 1964 USA Color de Luxe 107 mins.
In 1969 work began to convert the former New Victoria/Gaumont at a cost of Â£370,000, which was pretty unique in itself at that particular time in that the previously giant auditorium was split into three units. The former stalls area was converted into the Top Rank Bingo Club with capacity for over 1,000 players.
A complete new shell was built inside the old auditorium and damaging but not totally destroying all the original architecture. The false roof of the new shell is below the original New Victoria ceiling and dome, the steel frame of which still exists. Inside this shell two cinemas, Odeon 1 and 2 were created.
It was not until 1988 that a use was found for the empty and unused former New Victoria/Gaumont Ballroom. In February 1988 the large pendant houselight fittings were carefully removed and the Ballroom measured up for conversion and final plans drawn.
In April exterior re-roofing work and internal lightweight construction work of dividing the space to form auditorium with wooden raked floor, proscenium for screen, projection room and ancillary rooms. A suspended ceiling was fitted but the ornate wall pilasters of the former ballroom were retained and gilded as part of the new decor. Between the pilasters where once were huge showpiece mirrors now removed and replaced by blue drapes to match the blue screen curtains and blue patterned wall-to-wall carpeting.
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.
The very last film to be shown was "Chicken Run" in Odeon 2 (the largest auditorium) on Sunday 2nd July 2000. An invited guest in the audience was 77 year old Norman Scurrah who as a 7-year old boy had attended the original opening of the New Victoria in 1930.
The building has been left empty for over 10 years now, and the elements have taken there toll. The building is Hooj, so much so that Squirrel needed to make a return visit.
Cue myself and Kook who were eager for a mooch of this place, having tried to gain entry on more than one occasion in the past with no luck
Nearly 5 hours later I was glad to be out on the streets of Bradford in the fresh air once again, as the place is full of pidgeon poop, dampness & mould typical of any building that has been battered by the elements.
It was difficult trying to obtain decent shots by lighting stuff up, I prefer natural lighting for these types of explores, but it wasn't to be. Looking past the poor pict0rs this place is steeped with history.
It was amazing to go behind walls and above ceilings and through into once sealed off areas and see the remains of the 1930's architecture and features that had long been forgotton when the place was refurbished in the 1960's.
As another bonus we managed access to the Top Rank Bingo Hall below, and the basement area which housed the original oil boilers, generators, switchgear and lift machinery.
This place just kept giving with each corner we turned and each door we opened.
Up the stairs to the Auditoriums
Odeon 2 (the largest auditorium)
Kalee film projectors