Screenings in Bradford, West Yorkshire

The current arrangement whereby Picturehouse operate the screenings at Bradford’s Media Museum [now Science + Media Museum] will be changing in 2019. I only discovered this from a friend who has a Picturehouse membership due to expire. He was advised he could only renew for six months as Picturehouse would not be renewing the contract with the Museum when it expires in October 2019. I have now done a little investigation and there are notices on both the Museum and Picturehouse webpages but I do not think you would notice them if you did not know where to look or what to look for.

The statement by Picturehouse, similar to that of the Museum, is as follows:

“Following four successful years, Picturehouse and the National Science and Media Museum have agreed to conclude our partnership when the current contract comes to an end on October 31, 2019. The National Science and Media Museum will continue to operate three screens, maintaining its commitment to a full and exciting cinema programme, including unique special events.

Picturehouse will remain dedicated to delivering Bradford’s high standard of cinema programming until October 2019 and will be focusing on our exciting nationwide expansion after the contract concludes.

No job roles have been put at risk and Picturehouse staff in Bradford have all been communicated with. The museum, which last year enjoyed a seven-year high in visitor numbers, will continue to provide a welcoming home to great cinema for regulars and new audiences alike.

We wish Bradford National Science and Media Museum the very best for the future and we thank them for the last four years of a successful partnership.”

For people with Picturehouse membership they have the option of renewal when due for six months. Unlikely to be an exact fit except for a fortunate few. The change by Picturehouse follows on from their ‘downsizing’ of projection teams in their venues.

This seems to be another example of the Media Industries unwillingness to inform or consult with ordinary people with an interest in matters. The Museum failed to have any discussions when they decided to contract out the cinema programme four years ago. One Manager at the time claimed there had been consultation. It turned out someone had spoken at one of the popular Senior Citizen Screenings on a Thursday morning. I am reminded of the recurring line by Lone Watie (Chief Dan George) in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).

Importantly, what will this mean for film fans in the area? The Picturehouse programming is close to the mainstream and certainly less varied that that operated by the Museum prior to the changeover. However, it is also true that Picturehouse have programmed in films not screened elsewhere in the vicinity. And they do still offer screening using the 35mm and 70mm projection equipment in Pictureville and Cubby Broccoli.

The film programme was contracted out because of the financial deficits at the Museum. It seems that it is now managed or certainly overseen closely by the Management at the main venue, The National Science Museum in London. This management do not display a great interest in either film or photography. The change of the Museum’s title [to Science + Media Museum] has, to my mind, been accompanied by a reduced focus on these popular media. There was the outrageous purloining by the Victoria and Albert Museum of a major photographic collection. And recent cinematic exhibitions have been small-scale affairs on the wall opposite the IMAX entrance. The Insight Collection has much reduced access: the staff still offer interesting material but their number is clearly reduced.

If the Museum returns to operating the film programme I doubt that it will resemble the impressive variety of former days. Likely alternatives to Picturehouse as a contractor are not obvious; the Odeon chain apparently turned down the opportunity four years ago. The Museum does still operate the Widescreen Weekend, but this is predominately a mainstream programme. European widescreen films are a rarity. And the other Festivals once offered have fallen by the wayside. What would be good, but seems unlikely with the present style of management, would be a discussion with local people and regular patrons of the cinemas.

4 comments

  1. John Hall

    I was also disappointed to learn about this, particularly as Picturehouse are expanding in other areas but seem happy to withdraw from Bradford. Not quite, obviously, as it was in competition with itself at Cineworld which may gain additional footfall now. I found my Picturehouse membership at Bradford very good value; not quite as good when I used it at Picturehouse Central in London as all I got there was an eleven pound ticket for what would have been a thirteen pound one. I think ultimately it was the acquisition of Picturehouse by Cineworld that caused this, just as the acquisition of numerous independent London cinemas by the Curzon chain has led to increased focus on profit at the expense of film fans. Meanwhile in Halifax the revitalised Square Chapel is doing a splendid job in offering a diverse selection of films. It is not all bad news. Just mostly.

    • Roy Stafford

      I agree with most of what you say, though I’m not sure about your description of Curzon in London. A couple of days ago we heard that Curzon would not be taking over the Phoenix in North Finchley. The chain has certainly been expanding in London but mostly with new builds I think. London is a large market and a couple of new independent art cinemas have emerged in the last few years.

  2. John Hall

    To be honest, Roy, I mainly had the Renoir in mind when I said this. I have been going to the Renoir on and off for years. It is convenient for King’s Cross. Not happy when it changed hands and I think the local residents may agree.

    • Roy Stafford

      I agree, as I used to go there frequently on my trips to London, but it’s an issue of a change in policy for Curzon rather than a recent acquisition. Curzon merged with Artificial Eye in 2006 and the Renoir was one of the two cinemas owned by Artificial Eye at the time. I detailed the development of Curzon here: https://itpworld.online/2015/03/17/what-is-curzon-up-to/ I wouldn’t go to the re-branded ‘Curzon Bloomsbury’ because the prices are so high and the screens so small. A shame because I’ve used the cinema off and on since its opening in 1972.

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