Olympic Picture Theatre

Silk Street,
Bradford, BD9 5AB

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Additional Info

Previous Names: Olympic Picture Palace

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Olympic Picture Theatre

The Olympic Picture Theatre lasted from early-1914 to early-1923. It was purpose-built and situated on Silk Street, a side-road directly across Lilycroft Road from the entrance to the (still extant) Victorian Lilycroft school. The locality comprised poor working-class houses in the shadow of the gigantic Manningham Mills.

On 28th August 1913, The Bioscope reported that the Olympic Picture Palace (Bradford) Ltd. had been registered on 9th August with £5,000 in £1 shares. The company planned to ‘acquire certain lands and property in Silk Street, Manningham, Bradford, to demolish the existing buildings and erect a hall or theatre and to carry out the business of cinematograph and variety theatre proprietors’. The three directors were: H. Emmott; I. Newton; and S. Garton.

Comparing the 1906 and 1915 25-inch OS maps, shows the Olympic (1915 map) replaced St Luke’s Mission Room plus some adjacent tunnel-back-to-back dwellings (1906 map). This is confirmed by an early-1960’s photograph of the then ex-cinema building, which also shows an absence of ‘mission hall’ windows, bricked-up or otherwise. Decent photographs of the place are elusive. From aerial images it looks more than likely that all, or part, of the Mission Room building provided the stage end of the larger cinema building.

The Bradford Daily Telegraph’s earliest advertisement for the functioning cinema was Monday 2nd February 1914. The attraction was film of the cup-tie match between Bradford City and Millwall, and the cinema was styled the ‘New Olympic Picture Palace on Lilycroft Road’. Later advertisements declared prices were 2d, 4d and 6d; and performances were continuous from 6:45 to 10:30 pm. On Thursday 5 February The Bioscope reported ‘the latest addition to Bradford’s picture theatres’ had opened the previous week: i.e. the week of Monday 26th January 1914 for which there are no mentions in the Bradford Daily Telegraph. The Biograph reported ‘The auditorium has been fitted up to the latest principles of comfort and efficiency, and the “eye rest” lighting system is adopted’ and that there were two Kalee projectors and that the screen was in a heavily draped recess. The late Colin Sutton’s website reports 526 seats. Confirmation is elusive, but there was a ‘gallery’ (see later).

On 24th February 1914, the Bradford Daily Telegraph described the cinema as ‘one of the prettiest and best appointed of the many new “houses” which have recently sprung up in the city’. In May, the Olympic Picture Palace (Bradford) Ltd. created £1,800 of debentures (money-raising bonds on which a fixed interest would be paid). Debentures totalling £1,050 were issued soon after.

Frank Greenwood, from the Prince’s Hall Shipley, was the first manager. Around April 1915 Norman Siree took on the role. He volunteered for the army and, in 1917, was wounded in February and survived being gassed in October.

On 1st May 1919 The Kinematograph & Lantern Weekly reported that ‘J. Greenwood of Leeds’ had acquired the Olympic, but gave no other details. On 18th December the same newspaper reported that the Olympic’s licence had been transferred to G. F. Longden, licensee of the Birch Lane Cinema (across the town). There was a partnership arrangement involving the Birch Lane Cinema and Olympic Picture Theatre. The partners were: Thomas Thornton; Leonard Kitchen; John Edward Rouse; Frederick Lambert Agar; and Willie Kitchen. It was dissolved in February 1922. Rouse and W. Kitchen left; the others continued with just the Birch Lane Cinema. A Deed of Arrangement published in August 1922 indicates that Thomas Jerome had become the proprietor of the Olympic Picture Theatre.

In March 1922 a single Ernemann projector, recently-overhauled ‘at a cost of £22’, was advertised by the Olympic Picture Theatre in The Bioscope for £35 ‘for quick sale’.

During a measles epidemic in Bradford, in April 1922 Thomas Jerome was summoned for admitting children aged under ten, contrary to Health Committee directives. In December he was fined £3 9s 6d ‘for failing to comply with the requirements of the Entertainments Tax Act’ by not stamping all tickets as was required. Admission prices were 3d, 4d, 5d and 9d.

On 22nd February 1923 The Bioscope reported there had been a ‘serious fire’ at the Olympic Picture Theatre in the early hours of Wednesday 14th February. It was thought to have been caused by a ‘lighted match or cigarette’ dropped by a ‘careless smoker’. The ‘gallery was completely destroyed and £2,000 of damage was done’. The Olympic Picture Palace (Bradford) Ltd. went into voluntary liquidation on 20th June 1923.

After a delay after closure, the cinema building served other purposes (reportedly a garage business and, later, a warehouse). It was demolished in the mid-1960’s slum clearances of the area.

Contributed by H J Hill

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

HJHill on April 17, 2024 at 8:41 am

On the Google Map, the marker for the Olympic should be touching the left of the marker for ‘Mind the Gap’.

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