Leeds & West Yorkshire

Hyde Park Picture House gets lottery funding for 'gas lights' revamp

Hyde Park Picture House Image copyright Tom Joy/Heritage Lottery Fund/PA
Image caption Gas lights at Hyde Park Picture House will be refurbished as part of the £2.3m lottery funded improvements

Gas lights fitted in a cinema more than a century ago to deter "inappropriate behaviour" are to be refurbished as part of a £2.3m lottery grant.

The "modesty lighting" was originally put in to the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds in 1914 over fears of risque behaviour "in the back seats".

The picture house had initial lottery funding of £122,000 in 2016 and now £2.3m is to be spent on the building.

Leeds council leader Judith Blake said the picture house was a "cultural gem".

Hyde Park Picture House opened in November 1914, just after the outbreak of World War One, when it broadcast news bulletins and morale-boosting dramas.

It still has nine working gas lights, which are used every day when the cinema is open.

The cinema attracts devoted visitors and counts some famous faces among its fans, including Leeds-born film director Wash Westmoreland, Hollywood actor Chris Pine, who studied in Leeds as an exchange student from the US and went on to appear in Star Trek and Wonder Woman and BBC broadcaster and film critic Mark Kermode.

Image copyright Heritage Lottery Fund
Image caption An impression of the work to be carried out at Hyde Park Picture House in the autumn

The so-called "Picture House Project" will see the cinema undergo conservation work to the façade and existing auditorium along with the creation of new facilities including a larger foyer space and a second screen in the cinema's large basement.

Confirmation of the full lottery grant comes after two years of development work and extensive consultation with audiences, which saw the project given full planning approval.

The decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund to back the project means building work is now due to begin in the autumn.

A lottery spokesman said: "The cinema's nine gas lights, originally installed as "modesty lighting" to deter any inappropriate behaviour in the back seats, continue to be lit every day.

"Thanks to the project, they will now undergo essential refurbishment work to ensure they continue to flicker long into the future."

Council leader Ms Blake said: "The picture house is a rare cultural gem in our city and Leeds City Council is delighted to play a vital part in securing its future."

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