Leeds Film & TV

25th August 2023


Leeds has a rich film heritage and a thriving independent cinema scene. There are tons of interesting nuggets of history and culture at venues across the city.In October of 1888 it’s believed the first ever films were recorded here in Leeds by French artist Louis Le Prince. One film was a few seconds long and featured Prince’s family members walking around Another short sequence was also shot of carriages going by on Leeds Bridge, his son Adolphe can even be spotted playing the accordion. It’s clear that Leeds has had cinema running through its veins since its early beginnings. Fast forward to today, Leeds is home to some amazing film institutions including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds International Film Festival. Not to mention, the city and surrounding Yorkshire countryside are frequent filming locations for some major television shows and films, including the likes of Peaky Blinders, and more recently Marvel’s Secret Invasion.

Leeds’ dedication to independent cinema can be traced all the way back to 1930 when Alec Baron opened the first film society in Leeds. Eventually, he would go on to play an important role in starting up the first repertory cinema outside of London right here in Leeds. He established a strong relationship with the British Film Institute, which helped to solidify Leeds’ reputation as an important site for film appreciation beyond commercial cinema.

Hyde Park Picture House

Re-opened on June 30th 2023 after a two-year development Hyde Park Picture House is one of Leeds’ most iconic buildings andfilm appreciation hotspot. Opened in 1914, teetering on the start of the First World War, it’s one of the city’s (and the country’s) most historic cinemas. It’s the only remaining gas-lit cinema in Europe and quite possibly the world. And thanks to funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and support from Leeds City Council, every single detail of the Picture House has been lovingly restored from the lamppost to the mosaics on the entrance floor. Increasing accessibility has also been an important part of the refurbishment, ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy what this landmark has to offer.

The picture house shows major Hollywood hits alongside a programme dedicated to screening independent, documentary and classic films from around the globe. The dedication to showcasing cinema in all its depth and diversity has seen the picture house garner a loyal fan-base, £200,000 was raised for its renovation simply from public donations. It’s provides an unmissable and unique cinema experience which is a must for any film lovers coming to the city – using their 35mm film projectors for those film fanatics who love a softer, classic image depiction. The best way to describe the difference between using digital projectors would be the contrast between a vinyl record and online streaming. Fundamentally, it just offers more character. It’s no wonder that Hyde Park Picture House is one of the city’s most beloved institutions.

Moments to Remember

Leeds has hosted some of Britain’s greatest television shows, including Peaky Blinders and Happy Valley. City Varieties Music Hall, part of Leeds Heritage Theatres, opened its doors to the BBC back in early 2013 to begin filming on the very first series of Peaky Blinders. The iconic main room can be seen multiple times throughout episode 2, at first as Penny Crush Picture House where Arthur Shelby (played by Paul Anderson) gets dragged away by the coppers and later when Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) and Ada Shelby (Sophie Rundle) can be found having a heated discussion. Further on in the episode we can see Varieties transformed into an opera house, where Grace Burgess (Annabelle Wallis) and Chester Campbell (Sam Neill) discuss Tommy Shelby’s impending murder as an operatic murder unfolds on stage. The Varieties provided the perfect staging and an impressively flexible performance.

Another notable film location is for the hugely popular Happy Valley. There used multiple spots across the city including a scene at Leeds Railway Station with Ryan (Rhys Connah) after Tommy’s (James Norton) escape. In season 3 episode 5 Leeds Kirkgate Market is used as the backdrop for Tommy’s infamous escape, the Vicar Lane entrance can be briefly pictured on screen as he cycles away from police. A large amount of filming took place in the surrounding Yorkshire area including Woorley Moor Reservoir, Thornton in Bradford, Hebden Bridge and the Calderdale Valley and many other recognisable locations. So, if you’re a major fan why not plan filming locations tour? Find out more here.

These are just a few of the examples of Leeds’ relationship with the film and television industry. More recently, stars Samuel L. Jackson, Emilia Clarke and Cobie Smulders were spotted filming in Leeds for Marvel’s Secret Invasion. Which saw a portion of Leeds transformed into a Russian town.

Leeds International Film Festival

Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF) is one of the largest film events in the North with over 17 days of the best new features and shorts from around the world. Founded in 1987, the festival has drawn many famous faces to Leeds over the years including John Akomfrah, Andrea Arnold, Clio Barnard, Julian Barratt, Iciar Bollain, John Carpenter, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Jeanie Finlay, Terry Gilliam, Kazuo Hara, Andrei Konchalovsky, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Tsai Ming-Liang, Alan Moore, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart and Ben Wheatley. The 37th edition of LIFF takes place November 3-19 2023 with the programme due to be announced early October. They also organise the UK’s largest family film event, Leeds Young Film Festival which takes place every Easter and the INDIs Film Festival for 16–25-year-olds with an interest in film and new media.