The Abbeydale Picture House

Give me an old place, The Abbeydale Picture House is a semi-derelict 1920s cinema in the city of Sheffield, UK, which is currently being renovated for use as a community arts centre, in parts she is derelict others are used The Friends of the Abbeydale Picture House (FAPH) was formed in 2003, and in 2005 bought the building, with the intention to restore it as a performance venue and cinema. Since then, FAPH has run the Abbey Snooker Club and Bar Abbey in the basement, established the successful Picture House Youth Theatre, and opened the venue to gatherings of craftspeople and artists. As part of this 7/11/09 The 2009 live projects of the University of Sheffield School of Architecture invited.

In The Nursery who are a neo-classical/martial electronica band, known for their cinematic sound. As a result, the duo has provided soundtracks to a variety of TV programmes and films, and is known for its rescoring of silent films. To peform a live performance of their soundtrack to Dziga Vertov’s classic 1929 film Man With a Movie Camera at the Abbeydale Picture House

Man with a Movie Camera, sometimes The Man with the Movie Camera, The Man with a Camera, The Man With the Kinocamera, or Living Russia (Russian: Человек с киноаппаратом, Chelovek s kino-apparatom; Ukrainian: Людина з кіноапаратом, Liudyna z kinoaparatom)) is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no story and no actors[1], by Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova who helped with the process of deleting and adding new frames into the film.

Vertov’s feature film, produced by the Ukrainian film studio VUFKU, presents urban life in Odessa and other Soviet cities. From dawn to dusk Soviet citizens are shown at work and at play, and interacting with the machinery of modern life. To the extent that it can be said to have “characters,” they are the cameraman of the title and the modern Soviet Union he discovers and presents in the film. Man_with_a_Movie_Camera

History 1919 – 1949
The Abbeydale Picture House
387 Abbeydale Road
S7 1FS

In 1919 the Central Picture House Group obtained planning permission for a new cinema on the corner of Abbeydale Road and Marden Road. The Picture House was officially opened by the then Lord Mayor on December 20th, 1920, and it very quickly became a favourite spot for ‘Sheffielders’ to see silent films. At the time there were 36 cinemas across Sheffield. Most changed their programme of short films about twice a week, and there were no shows on Sundays.

The striking white building was designed by architects Dixon and Steinlet of North Shields. Built in neo-classical style, it stands on Abbeydale Road and features a domed tower, skirted by a balustrade above the main entrance. It is clad in white faience tiles, which were chosen because they were considered to be self-cleaning – a great benefit in an industrial city with a great deal of pollution. Originally there was a glass canopy along the front of the building, to shelter people as they queued for seats. This was removed in the 1970s but you can still see the supporting struts and holders.

Inside, there was a cafe and a lounge at circle level. The theatre seated 1,500 people on green velvet and mahogany seats. The rather ornate interior was classical style with Doric pillars on either side of the Proscenium Arch, and above the arch a frieze of Grecian figures. The decor was green, cream and gold – a grand and opulent place to see and be seen in!

The first event was a charity event with the film, “The Call of the Wild”, supported by”The Grocery Clerk” and a Fox Newsreel. The show ran for a week, and after the gala opening, ticket prices were 2/- (two shillings), 1/3d (one & threepence),9d (ninepence) & 6d (sixpence) or 10p, 6p, 4p & 2.5p in today’s money

In September 1921 the basement opened with a Billiard Hall and a Ballroom which had a sprung dance floor.

When the theatre opened there was a ten-piece orchestra under the directorship of Arnold Bagshaw. This was supplemented by a Clavorchester two-keyboard organ in October 1921, built by Brindley & Foster of Suffolk Street, Sheffield, at a cost of £3,000. It was played for the first three days by Arthur Meal (FRCO Organist and Musical Director of the Central Hall, Westminster). The programme included the music Finlandia, Marche Militaries to show off the organ, it also featured The Pathe Gazette (an animated newspaper), Picta Jokes (humour in verse, prose and pictures), The Bray Pictograph (containing “much that is interesting, instructive and amusing”) plus two main features – Mildred Haven in “The Courage of the Common Race” (an Edison Super Production in 5 acts), and also Mabel Norman in “The Jinx” (a Goldwyn comedy in 5 acts).

The Abbeydale Picture House grew and grew in popularity, and in 1928 dressing rooms were added so that variety shows with a larger cast could be performed. In 1930 talking pictures arrived with “Sunny Side up”. Then in 1950 the cinema was taken over by the Star Cinema Group, and in 1955 they installed Cinemascope – and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” hit the screen.

1950 – 2003

During the 1950s however, the world discovered a new phenomenon – television had arrived, and in Britain people started to stay at home to enjoy this new wonder. Sadly on July 5th 1975 the final reel ran out with Charles Bronson in “Breakout” and “The Lords of Flatbush”.

In April 1976 the cinema became Drakes Office Equipment Sales. This was preferable to the proposal by Shell to demolish the picture house and replace it with a petrol station, carwash and shop. Drakes agreed to keep the Court School of Dance in the basement, and also got permission for an adjacent car park. In 1983 Drakes applied for planning permission to turn the ballroom into a snooker hall. The sprung floor was removed and replaced by concrete, and the snooker tables moved in. Ballroom dancing continued until the early ’90’s in what is now Bar Abbey.

On August 24th, 1989 the building was granted a Grade II listing for its architectural and historic importance. Drakes ceased trading in 1991. The business downstairs continued under the name Abbey Snooker & Bar Abbey.

Many plans for the building came to nothing – until 2003 when the Friends of the Abbeydale Picture House was formed.


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