Film If there was a spiritual venue for my cinematic awakening it was the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds. From the moment I discovered its existence after finding a brochure for the Leeds film festival in fresher's week, it's pretty much were I spent a lot of evenings, especially in my second and third year when it was a five or ten minute walk from my accommodation. In the days before even dial-up internet was a domestic necessity, this was as close as I got to having Netflix and of course entirely superior because although the selection was rather more limited and you couldn't pause for a toilet break, it was projected on a giant screen instead of the portable television I have at the moment.
But even my first year in halls, my romance with the place was such that when it came time to make a documentary for a presentations skills montage, I decided to put together a ten minute piece about the place which included an interview with the projectionist and the two montage sequences embedded above which will give you a retrospective sense of what it was like back then. As you can see it was a rep cinema in the old style with wooden theatre seating, screen sitting atop a stage, an orange clock with a backlight which was always on and an actual balcony. The gloss paint. All of the gloss paint.
There's plenty of advertising on show in that video, so you can see the filmic era this was. Flyers advertising The Scent of Green Papaya. A box office papered with publicity stills for Germinal. A late night showing of Reservoir Dogs which had to be granted a video licence. Poster for an all-nighter featuring Wayne's Worlds 1 & 2 and the two Bill & Ted films. Age of Innocence and Romeo is Bleeding in general release. Trailer for An Innocent Woman. While I'm never a completely believer that cinema has golden ages, every years has its classics and not, you can't really argue that this wasn't a great time to be a cinema goer.
Although Dogs was a weekly permanent fixture for a while, in later years the menu had more variety and it's in my third year I saw Mean Streets on Saturday night in a show which finished at about one am from a print which looked like it had been knocking around since its original release. One of those films which feels like it couldn't live up to its initial viewing, I like that it now exists as a series of dreams, flashes of images, notably the famous scene of drunk Keitel with an Aeroflex camera hung around his neck, De Nero's hat, the blueness and rain in the darkened streets, the pervading sense of dread and threat.
Here's a list of some of the films I remember seeing there: Trainspotting. Small Faces. Four Weddings. Leon. The Piano. True Romance. Withnail & I. Kids. Flirting With Disaster. Like Water For Chocolate. Farewell My Concubine. The Hudsucker Proxy. Pulp Fiction. Dazed and Confused. In The Bleak Midwinter. Manhattan Murder Mystery. Flower of my Secret. La Ceremonie. Mina Tannenbaum. Age of Innocence. The Last Seduction. Living in Oblivion. Mute Witness. Clerks. Smoke. Blue In The Face. The Brothers McMullen. Four Rooms. From Dusk Till Dawn.
The last film was John Sayles's Lone Star on the night of my graduation. My parents had gone to bed at the hotel and I ventured back to the Hyde Park after a few months away. For most people I expect it was the ceremony itself which drew a line under their undergraduate experience, but for me it was sitting on that empty balcony in that auditorium for what I knew to be final time. I cried. A lot. Just as I always do when I know that a feeling or place which was once there is gone. Brilliantly, the venue still exists although market forces mean that there's less variety on offer to new students. But one day I shall go back. Yes, one day.