Thursday, November 30, 2006

VISIT: Hyde Park Picture House

The building that is the Hyde Park Picture House (HPPH) has stood proudly on the corner of Brudenell Road and Queens Road in LS6 for 98 years, for the last 92 of these years it has operated as a cinema. Whilst the area around the picture house has experienced numerous transformations - including an influx of student residents, the picture house itself, has managed to retain its original character through careful refurbishment of this grade two listed building.

In 2005 the 270 seat cinema had 961 performances watched by 42,000 visitors generating £180,000 revenue from ticket and kiosk sales. HPPH is owned and operated by Leeds City Council, it is also a registered charity. It predominantly shows independent, art house and foreign language films, with children’s films being shown on a Saturday afternoon.

The Entertainment Management group visited HPPH on Monday afternoon, and had a tour and talk from Manager Wendy Cook. What follows is a brief summary of some of the key points made by Wendy during the visit.

Facilities Management

In the independent cinema sector, it is not uncommon for one cinema to make use of another cinema’s hand-me-downs. This has been the case at HPPH where both carpets, seating and projectors which are 50-60 years old, (pictured left) from the now closed Lounge Cinema in Headingley were used to refurbish HPPH. There is also a clock next to the main screen (unusual for a cinema) which came from another cinema in Scotland.

Any refurbishment needs to retain the existing character of the building, these include the cinema’s gas lights – which are still in working order. In the near future a new fire alarm system will be installed with costs expected to be £10,000 - £15,000, and the cinema roof is to be replaced in the next ten years. There are also hopes of a future extension to the current building with a second screen being installed, as well as a disabled toilet.

The seats, and screen covered with the curtain - the clock is to the right of the screen

Disability Support

Due to the buildings age and listed status, modernisation is limited, this has meant limited access for wheel chair users. Under the reasonable adjustment clause of the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) HPPH can show subtitled films, and provide water bowls for guide dogs. There are plans to install a hearing loop to assist those who use a hearing aid.


The unique selling point of HPPH is the building itself along with its history. Competition locally from independent and art house cinemas comes only from Cottage Road Cinema in Headingley. However large multiplexes such as Vue Cinema at Kirkstall and in the Light do now sometimes show art house films that once would have not been associated with multiplexes. Due to the fact that HPPH only has one screen it is limited to only showing two or three performances per day, which puts it at a disadvantage to the larger multiplexes that have a greater capacity.

The Film Hire Process

HPPH can show films in traditional 35mm reel or digital formats (including DVDs). Historically, film distribution companies would charge either a minimum amount per film, or a percentage of door receipts. This would sometimes be as high as 35-40% in the first two weeks of a film being released, ‘big’ films such as Harry Potter and Sin City would inevitably cost more, often 50-60%.

Films are now hired through City Screen Virtual who are an independent booker that hire films from distribution companies. For this service HPPH pay a fee of £6,000 per year. There are also financial rewards for City Screen Virtual if HPPH receives over 32,000 visitors per year. This gives City Screen Virtual the incentive to give HPPH films that will attract good numbers of visitors – which is often down to how films are marketed, there is a clear relationship between promotion, and numbers of visitors per film.

The view of the screen from the projectionists room

Human Resources

The cinema has eleven members of paid staff, undertaking roles including projectionist, cleaner, and front of house, it also utilises a number of volunteer workers, who in return for their endeavours can watch performances free of charge.


This was acknowledged as being ‘ad-hoc’ in the past, but now the cinema has a new website, and a marketing package that includes a brochure that features adverts from other entertainment attractions. HPPH rarely pay to advertise in other publications.

Other Factors

The location of HPPH is perceived as being ‘unsavoury’ by some visitors, other people have admitted that its location has put them off of visiting.

Audiences in the main comprise of students, long term ‘HPPH veterans’, and young professionals.

Advertising through Carlton Screen provides an additional regular income stream.

There is a ‘Friends of Hyde Park Picture House’ association whose patron is Ken Loach.

The Kiosk

Many thanks to Wendy Cook and Leeds City Council for an extremely interesting visit.

Monday, November 20, 2006

REVIEW: Messe Berlin

Messe Berlin is a company that specialise in exhibitions, conventions and trade fairs, they run a complex owned by the State of Berlin, which is the tenth largest exhibition centre in the world hosting 80 international trade events annually. From the air the Messe Berlin complex looks huge, consisting of 26 buildings, most of which are enormous exhibition halls, boasting 160,000 square metres of floor space, that when dormant stand like empty aircraft hangars, awaiting a new exhibition, convention, or trade fair to begin.

Inside part of one of the empty exhibition halls

These are not the only activities that occur at the Messe Berlin, the complex is also used as a location for recording television programmes and films – each empty exhibition hall, makes a perfect ‘blank canvas’ into which a set can be designed. Outdoors the complex has an additional 100,000 square metres that includes the Sommergarten (Summer Garden) in the middle of the complex, which in the Summer months hosts open air concerts, and the Berlin Radio Tower which at 150 metres tall (with antenna), gives a fantastic view, not only over the complex – but over the entire city also.

I was fortunate enough to be visiting a Leeds Met student on work placement at the Messe Berlin, and was given a behind the scenes tour of the complex. During my visit there was a trade fair in full swing called ‘Import Shop’ that featured a global array of everything from ethnic foods, to candles, handbags, beads, paintings, wood carvings and delicate metalwork. My visit took place on a Thursday, but it was still a very busy time, with many shoppers actively searching for unusual Christmas gifts.

It has to be said, however that the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to go up the metal radio tower. The tower known locally as the ‘Funkturm Berlin’ was built in 1926 and is now a protected monument. It has its own restaurant mid-way up, where diners can see views over the city. At the top observation deck it is possible to go outside and feel the wind on your face whilst viewing the City 125 metres below. Truly spectacular, very entertaining, and most certainly worthy of experiencing for anyone visiting Berlin.

The lift ride up the tower

Aerial view over the Messe Berlin Sommergarten

Lift ride back down the tower

My thanks go to Lena Brockman and the staff at the Messe Berlin for their kindness and hospitality.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

REVIEW: Leeds Christmas Lights 2006

On Thursday 9th November 2006, Leeds Christmas lights were switched on by the band McFly who headlined a mixed cast of celebrities from the worlds of theatre, television, radio and music, these included the choir singers Angelis, Gaynor Faye, Jane Tomlinson, Santa and friends and the cast of the Wizard of Oz from West Yorkshire Play House. Once again Leeds City Council opted to hold this annual event in Victoria Gardens.

We (two adults, two children) arrived at 7:15am and struggled to get anywhere near the front without risking harm to the kids, so had to stand to the left of the stage as one faces it. As adults we could see the large screen, but not the stage due to its distance, and obstruction by a number of objects including lamp posts, traffic lights and trees. The childrens' entertainment was all well and good for those children that could see it, but for those children who couldn’t, it was all a bit of a waste of time. Children who were hoisted onto parents shoulders then blocked the view for adults standing behind them, which resulted in ‘pools’ of space and several choice words directed at parents - from those spectators whose views had been blocked.

The distant stage

WHY Leeds City Council still continue to use this venue when there is a purpose built and sloping spectator arena 100 metres away in Millennium Square is simply beyond me, but one suspects that it may be pressure from shop owners who use the night as their first official night of late night opening in the run up to Christmas (Millennium Square is just that little bit further away from the shops).

The Headrow around Victoria Gardens had been closed off meaning that people were standing in the road and on the pavement – unfortunately this meant that a number of people trying to get through crowds were tripping up and down kerbs – I have no idea what medical mishaps were reported that night, but the risk of sprained or broken ankles was a dangerous possibility.

Mcfly played three songs (That Girl, Please Please, and Sorry’s Not Good Enough) before leaving the stage and returning to press the button for the ten second countdown which culminated in strings of coloured bulbs being illuminated around the streets of Leeds City Centre. After the lights came on fireworks were launched from somewhere too distant for them to be properly viewed by half of the crowd due to the height of the surrounding buildings. In previous years this has never been a problem, but this time the fireworks were launched from much too far away – most likely due to health and safety restrictions, which are largely sterilising (and for me spoiling) what used to be good entertainment. Another recent example of this was at Leeds City Council’s bonfires which burned only wooden packing crates, and had barriers around them so that spectators were so far away, that the heat from the fire could not be felt – which is half of the novelty when the outside temperature is only 4 degrees Celsius.

The obstructed view of the fireworks

One of the presenters on stage stated that the crowd was 30,000 strong – please let me take this opportunity to say that this was a complete over-estimate. I have seen a crowd of 30,000 – and this fell way short of it, 20,000 maximum would have been a more honest and accurate assessment, and at least half of these people would not have been able to see the stage, or would have had an obstructed view.

The crowd - nearer 20,000 than 30,000

The next day I decided to have a walk around to take some photographs as the stage was dismantled, in order to better illustrate the inadequacy of Victoria Gardens as a venue, and how Millennium Square would have made a more suitable arena for this occasion and would do for future Christmas Light launches.

Victoria Gardens - the area if front of the stage with a good view is very limited in size

Trees provide an obstruction - hidden kerbs provide a hazard

Posts on the Headrow - more obstructions

Traffic lights on the headrow - more obstructions, and again the dangers of hidden kerbs in crowds.

Millennium Square - purpose built and sloping, this would have made a much more suitable venue, it could even feature a large illuminated Christmas tree at the bottom (like in City Square) as a focal point for when the lights are switched on.

Come on Leeds City Council, get it right for 2007 – you KNOW that it makes sense.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

VISIT: The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television

At the halfway point of Semester one, the group visited the cumbersomely named National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, which is based in Bradford City Centre and will now be referred to as NMPFT or simply 'the museum'.

After a quick brunch in the museum cafeteria, we made our way to the new TV Heaven suite where we were given a talk by the museum Marketing Officer Steve Hyman. Steve who is one of a three strong marketing team (Marketing Manager, Officer, and Assistant) has worked at the museum for five years, during which time the museum has peaked in terms of visitor numbers, and is now experiencing a period of slight decline. Since 1983 the museum has attracted over 11 million visitors, however in the product life cycle NMPFT has now passed the saturation and maturity stages, and is experiencing fewer visitor numbers than it was both six years ago (1 million in 2000) and three years ago (750,000 in 2003). In order to combat this, and to modernise the image of what already is quite 'cutting edge' as far as museums go, the museum is being officially renamed and rebranded later this month. To exactly what Steve would not reveal, however my guess of the National Museum of Media, proved to be rather close to the mark, when Steve later accidentally said 'the National Media Museum' as he talked about the museums future (you read it here first). One positive that it is hoped to achieve from the renaming of the museum is a universally recognised name, at present it is known by a variety of pseudonyms, including; the TV museum; the film museum; the photo museum; the Bradford museum; and the IMAX museum. The National Media Museum will focus heavily on new media and multimedia technology alongside its present TV, photography, and film core. The National Media Museum will not particularly focus on printed media in the first instance.

The Museum is centrally located in Bradford near to the Alhambra Theatre

Throughout his talk, Steve also revealed the following information about the museum:


The annual marketing budget is £250,000 this is spent on the following; information and marketing literature; a 6,000 strong mailing list; radio advertising (Pulse and Real Radio); poster sites; an email distribution list; press advertisements (including the Bradford Telegraph and Argus, Yorkshire Post, and the Guardian Guide); a website; market research (including an annual exit survey); and collaborative promotional schemes with other major Yorkshire tourist attractions in a scheme called Yorkshire's Magnificent Attractions. All of the above is referred to as 'above the line' marketing, there is also 'below the line' marketing, which has the advantage of being free, and includes public relations activities - namely press and media releases being circulated within the local media in order to generate interest stories and keep the museum in the the eyes of the public.

A recent marketing campaign to boost the museum for October half term week, which included radio adverts, posters, and a mail shot helped to contribute to the museum receiving 23,000 visitors during that period - a demonstration of the importance of making promotional activities both targeted and timely.

Visitors to the museum are divided into three categories: the family market; lovers of... (enthusiasts); and the hard to reach. Research by the museum suggests that most visitors come from within a 1 1/2 hour to two hour drive time radius, and that most make the decision to visit either on the day, or very close to the day of visit.


The museum employs a variety of staff in differing roles, these include the following: Box Office and Front Desk Staff (who must be welcoming and courteous); Cinema Ushers for the three cinemas, roles include meet and greet, ticket ripping, handing out and collecting in 3D glasses, and cleaning the cinema between performances; four call centre staff for handling enquiries; curators who put displays together; and subject specialists that are on hand to answer questions.


The fact that the museum is an indoor attraction can be both a help and a hindrance, for people who may want to escape from or enjoy the weather. The museum is free entry and always has been (unlike some other National Collections), however it is not cheap to maintain (the recently created Production Zone cost £3m) so income generation is key. The museum is a charity, but also draws funding from: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS); private sponsors (there is a thank you wall of stars with sponsor names on, on the ground floor of the museum; and internal income generation from the cinemas, cafe, gift shop, conferencing, and other internal pay in attractions.

The wall of stars (corporate sponsors and backers)

The museum has a corporate hire department and is often used as a conference venue, which can utilise unused capacity in the cinemas outside of their normal opening hours, there is also an 80 seat meeting room.

Other Facts

NMPFT is a part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, and opened in June 1983, it had a major refurbishment and extension built in 1999.

NMPFT has three cinemas which are: the Pictureville Cinema and the Cubby Brocolli Cinema which both show 'art house' films, and do not generally open until 3pm; and the giant screen
IMAX cinema which is very popular and was the first in Europe.

NMPFT hosts three festivals: the Bradford Film Festival; the Bradford Animation Festival; and the Bite the Mango Film Festival.

Bradford was chosen as a location for the museum due to its post industrial regeneration activities, it was thought that the museum would help to boost tourism to Bradford, which would aid regeneration.

The museum has a number of interactive galleries spread over seven floors including: the Animation gallery; the Kodak gallery (the history of photography); Experience TV - the story of television; TV Heaven - an on demand facility allowing visitors to watch archived television episodes; the Production zone; the BBC Bradford Studio - home to production teams for BBC Radio Leeds, BBC Asian Network and BBC Look North; and Gallery one and two (currently showing photography displays 'The Old and the New' by P.H. Emmerson, and 'The British Landscape' by John Davies.

Live radio broadcasts are made from the museum

The museum does not open on Mondays, apart from in school holidays, and on Bank Holidays.

After our talk we had an hour to view the galleries, which were extremely busy with at least three local school parties, and a large group of mid-teen German students. The investment in keeping the galleries cutting edge with technology, as well as attractive in terms of visual display was self evident, and certainly merited a longer future visit. at 1pm we watched a 3-D IMAX screening of 'Sharks' which was beautifully shot, but was not the most effective of 3-D films that I personally have seen there. I will be coming back though (with family) for the Christmas 3-D computer animated feature length film 'Santa VS the Snowman 3-D' as the trailer was superb - and 'in your face' as 3-D should be.

A variety of galleries and displays

Many thanks to Steve and the very helpful staff at the National Media Museum (shhh) for an informative, interactive, and enjoyable visit.