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After the Floods: Progress at the Picture House

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Whilst the floods of Boxing Day have undoubtedly made operating the town's cinema much more difficult for Hebden Royd Town Council, there are some silver linings to be found.

Hebden Bridge Picture House, like most of the town centre was badly flooded, with damage being far more extensive than that sustained in the two floods of summer 2012. This time the waters claimed all of the stalls seating (none of it original to the building though, unlike the balcony seating) and wrecked the basement boiler room, and the cinema sustained damage to the under-stage area, toilets and foyer and kiosk. However, the flooding has provided some great opportunities.

Firstly, in order to protect the extensive boiler and central heating system at the cinema in the case of future flooding, work immediately commenced commissioning a new boiler room one level higher than the previous location, in a room which has never seen water ingress. The work took just three weeks and involved diverting all the services upwards, and closing up the flues and vents which previously allowed water into the basement. The new boilers and heaters were up and running before the end of January.

Secondly, it became apparent that removal of the ruined stalls seating allowed very rare access to the full height of the enormous auditorium via a cherry picker type of access machine, enabling long overdue survey and restoration work to occur to the ceiling with its element of ornate plasterwork, and a full auditorium redecoration to occur. The seats being absent have allowed this work to occur more swiftly and economically than trying to redecorate round a room full of fixed seating attached to a raked floor, using a series of scaffolding towers built over the seats. The curtains throughout the auditorium will be replaced, and the gilt elements of the ornate plasterwork will be renewed.

New seats

New seats have been ordered, which, whilst maintaining a traditional theatre seat style with a rich red velvet velour covering, will have improved dimensions and levels of comfort. But don't worry - the stalls area will continue to enjoy its superior amounts of generous legroom. Refurbishment work is focusing on the auditorium and toilet and backstage areas first, and then, after Easter, the foyer and kiosk area will have their turn, when the damaged floor will need extensive repair before a full redecoration, new flooring and new 'shop front' to the kiosk will be installed and the redecoration will continue all the way up the main stairs to the balcony entrance.

Finally, the Picture House is taking the opportunity of being closed downstairs for a few weeks to install a new top of the range 'addressable' fire detection and alarm system to replace the old and more basic system which was nearing retirement anyway, and again are benefitting from ease of access to hard to reach areas of the building.

While appropriate insurance provision will deliver much of the works outlined the extensive programme of additional enhancements is being funded by the Picture House, through its trading surplus from previous years, and by the Town Council.

Stalls re-opening

Rebekah Fozard, manager of Hebden Bridge Picture House, commented, "If all these pieces of the jigsaw come together as planned (and they should do!) then the stalls will reopen on Good Friday (25th March) in time for everyone to enjoy the more extensive holiday programme of films, live broadcasts and other interesting events."

After a pause for breath, the staff will continue to deliver the refurbishment in April, with a temporary closure of the foyer (access will be diverted to the front of the stalls to allow the cinema to remain fully open) to enable its transformation from a tired and well loved space into the entrance the cinema truly derserves.

Rebekah added, "We thank all our customers, Friends and staff for their continued patience and for their loyalty. Whilst waiting for the stalls to reopen, don't forget there is plenty of Balcony seating available – we haven't sold out yet – so please visit your local cinema for the best in independent film programming."

Tickets start at just £5. Visit the Picture House website for our full programme.