5 of the best independent cinemas in and around Leeds

25th June 2018

Liam tells us about his 5 favourite independent cinemas in Leeds…


If you’re a film buff then we hope this will be like your Bible. The Bonny to your Clyde. The Harry to your Sally. Leeds interestingly has a rich cultural history of film and cinemas, it is believed the first ever moving pictures where filmed on Leeds Bridge by Louis Le Prince in 1888, and we’re here to guide you through the city’s independent hot spots for sitting back and simply watching a wonderful film.


1. Cottage Road Cinema

Headingley’s Cottage Road cinema is probably one of the oldest picture houses in the country, dating back to 1912. It has, impressively, been showing films continuously since opening and that means it must have seen a whole lot of change in its lifetime, and still proudly stands tall today. Originally known as The Headingley Picture House, the space was previously used as a motor cycle garage and mechanics for nearby Castle Grove – a Victorian mansion built for a well-off and well-to-do Leeds silk merchant. A filmmaker called Owen Brooks got his mitts on the premises in the 1900s and joined up with a bloke called Reginald Smith to set up a cinema. The company has changed hands a few times since its early days but remains an atmospheric spot to soak up some classics, which they screen once every 6 weeks. Don’t worry, they also screen more current releases every day as part of the regular programme.


2. Hyde Park Picture House

Most students will have probably come across Hyde Park Picture House – a staple go-to for those hungover evenings when you can’t muster up the energy to do much else apart from kick back. This iconic cinema is smack bang in the middle of the Hyde Park area and is well known for being ‘the cosiest cinema in Leeds’. It has been showing movies since 1914 and the building itself is worth watching, with original features including an Edwardian balcony and gas lighting. After being threatened with closure back in 1989, Leeds City Council took over management of the space by creating an independent company as part of the council, and its strong programme and Grade II listed building means it’s going strong to this day. Along with its Headingley counterpart Cottage Road, it’s one of only two single-screen cinemas in the city. Make the most of it.


3. Oakwood Cinema

This cinema is definitely a good place to spend your hard-earned bucks. A community run initiative run by volunteers, its aim is to provide locals with quality independent cinema. For us, that’s definitely reason enough to go. A night at Oakwood is a real experience – the building is beautiful, it’s fully decked out with a great screen and audiovisual equipment, plus there’s a licensed bar so you can bring a bevvie in whilst you sit back and enjoy the trip. They even have old-school intermissions to encourage people to have a chat and socialise during the breaks, enhancing the community-focused atmosphere. Oakwood pulls off their mission fantastically – in an age where you can spend near-on £15 to see a movie at a large multiplex, this cinema stands by its dedication to equality and access, so punters never have to pay over a fiver to watch a film!


4. Palace Picture House

Now this place only has room for 24 of you lucky devils, but it certainly makes an unusual experience so it’s worth the effort to get a spot, if you can. Based in Leeds’ Armley Mills as part of the Leeds Industrial Museum, a trip to this mini-cinema really does feel like you’re stepping back in time. Having been around since the 1920s, the operation still works like clockwork to this day so make sure not to miss out on the chance to enjoy a film here. Make a day of it by visiting the fantastic museum!


5. Ilkley Cinema

Just a short drive or train ride from Leeds city centre you’ll arrive in the picturesque town of Ilkley; home to the independent single-screen Ilkley Cinema. The laid back sofa style seating is straight out of a cosy lviing room, but the tech certainly isn’t with state of the art projectors to screen the latest blockbusters.


Well, that’s all folks. We hope you enjoy paying visits to these nuggets of cinema history right on our doorsteps – make the most of them. The End!


Liam is a freelance website designer and digital marketer based in Leeds. He spends the rest of his time exploring what the city has to offer.