The Gaumont

The Gaumont was a cinema and venue which operated under various names (The New Victoria, The Gaumont, Bradford Odeon) on Godwin Street, Bradford, between 1930 and 2000.

In 1928 a decision was made by a local body of Councillors, MP’s and other local figures that William Whittaker's brewery would be demolished and give way to a new cinema. The New Victoria combined a cinema with a large ballroom, restaurant and tea room café.

Local architect, William Illingworth, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, was given the role of designing the theatre. He was given three conditions to the design; it had to look iconic, modern and had to have domes to complement Francis Laidler’s Alhambra, which was opened in 1914. Behind this rather ambitious project were two big leisure companies; Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) and the Gaumont British Pictures Corporation (GBPC.)

The New Victoria was opened on Monday 22nd September 1930 by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Angus R. Rhodes in the company of other distinguished guests, civic officials and managers of other Bradford city centre cinemas.

From its opening, the ballroom above the restaurant overlooking Thornton Road provided two dance sessions daily to its patrons. There was also a restaurant in the theatre which opened from 12-2.30pm daily.

The ventilation system in the building was a new innovation in 1930 and was being tested across 32 picture houses across Yorkshire. It had to be specifically designed very carefully to deal with the thousands of people who could be in the theatre at any one time. The system could admit 60,000 cubic feet of air every minute.

A 3-manual 10-rank Style 220 Wurlitzer pipe organ was installed at the back of the huge orchestra pit. A lift allowed the organ to rise above the height of the stage, which was very useful in flooding such as in 1946. Many broadcasts of the organ live from the theatre were broadcast in the 1930s and 1940s.

In September 1950, the name of the New Victoria was changed to the Gaumont to fit in with the popularity of the Gaumont cinema circuit. Gaumont British Pictures Corporation (GBPC) were one of the two parties who put the money into the project. The 1950s and 1960s saw Bradford put on the tour map as the Gaumont was home to stars such as The Beatles, Tom Jones, The Rolling Stones and Shirley Bassey.

In 1954, the Gaumont became the first cinema in Bradford to install CinemaScope – a new innovation in the world of ‘talkies’ or talking films. It is believed that it cost the Gaumont between £6,000 and £7,000 to install it. The first CinemaScope film to be shown here was on 2nd February 1954 and was “How to Marry A Millionaire” starring Marilyn Monroe.

On Saturday 30th December 1961 the Gaumont Ballroom closed down. The last waltz to be played there was “Sea of Heartbreak” by Don Gibson and played by Bert Bentley and His Orchestra.

In 1968, after a period of declining numbers in the audience, the management at the Gaumont chose to close the cinema. The Gaumont finally closed its doors on Saturday 30th November 1968 to the film “Rio Conchos.” The building was then sold to Odeon Cinemas, who refurbished the building and reopened the operation in 1969.