When we moved to Sowerby Bridge almost 18 months ago (no, I can’t believe it has been that long either), one thing I moved away from was an easily accessible cinema. In Bradford, I was well catered for – the Cineworld multiplex by the Interchange shows all of the new releases, plus there’s the National Media Museum showing IMAX films as well as regular films in its Pictureville and Cubby Broccoli cinemas.
But Sowerby Bridge doesn’t have a cinema of its own; nor does neighbouring Halifax, although this will change this summer when a Vue multiplex opens opposite the bus station. The nearest big cinemas are back in Bradford, or the Odeon in Huddersfield, although its out of town location makes it awkward to get to without a car.
As the crow flies, the Rex Cinema in Elland is closest, although getting there by bus means changing at Halifax which is a bit of a pain (Elland’s railway station closed in 1962, and though there’s talk of building a new one, no plans have come to fruition). It’s a small, independent cinema which shows films every evening, but these aren’t usually the latest and tend not to be the big blockbusters. Same for the Hebden Bridge Picture house, further up the valley, which I wrote about in January.
But it wasn’t always like this. Sowerby Bridge, like many towns in days gone by, did have its own cinema. In fact, it had two – both on Wharf Street, the main road through the town.
The first was the Electric Cinema. The building dates from 1915, although the exact date that it opened seems to be disputed by various web sites and may have been as late as 1917. It later became the Roxy Cinema, and was operated by Gaumont Cinemas until 1951, with an impressive capacity of over 800. It closed in 1962, where upon the building lay dormant until 1972, when it became a bingo hall. Sometime around 2009, the owners converted it into a bistro and late opening venue, which is how it survives today. [Credit: Malcolm Bull's Calderdale Companion  , Bingo VG]
Former Essoldo Cinema, Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge © Copyright Humphrey Bolton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.The other cinema, which was literally around 200 metres further down the high street was the Regent Cinema, opened in 1939. It became the Essoldo Cinema ten years later in 1949, before closing in 1967, again to become a bingo hall. More recently the bingo hall shut and the building was converted into shops, and now houses a charity pound shop and a newsagent. [Credit: Malcolm Bull:  ]
Although it’s good that both buildings survive and are in use (something that sadly can’t be said for Bradford’s 1930s former Odeon cinema), it’s a shame that the town hasn’t managed to retain a cinema despite having two at one point. Still, it will be nice for Halifax to have a cinema again, even though it will be a big multiplex run by a national firm, rather than the small, independent community cinemas in Elland and Hebden Bridge.