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Hebden Bridge Picture House

From Jan Bridget

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

What is one of the main things that makes our cinema special? The leg room!

I have heard that Hebden Royd Council are replacing the seats lost in the floods with more seats than before so that they can make more money and bang goes the wonderful extra leg room.

Can someone confirm if this is true or not?

From Myra James

Thursday, 4 February 2016

While I agree that ample leg room in an auditorium is important, in the Picture House there was more than anybody needs. It strikes me as a sensible move to put in more seats to boost audience numbers for very popular films and live streamed events, as long as the result is not cramped seating. We all want the Picture House to have a successful and viable future, so if a few extra seats will help secure that I would support the move.

From V Uttley

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Keep the wonderful space for long legs its great, apart from anything else the whole row of sitters don't have to stand when people come back balancing hot drinks, beer, cakes etc (I love our cinema) or come in late or nip to the loo. I've been going to the cinema for 30 years and seldom is the seating upstairs used, only on very special occasions. Here's to a wonderful leg stretching cinematic experience. Health and safety plastic cups with lids… it's opening a can of worms, or hot coffee.

From Bob Deacon

Friday, 5 February 2016

I agree with keeping more space. It is one of the delightful aspects of the cinema. Sitting upstairs last night in cramped seating reminded me. And those of us of a certain age don't have to worry about getting to the toilet if taken short! I hope the Cinema manager is alerted and it is not too late.

From Paul Knights

Friday, 5 February 2016

There is actually news on the Picture House website about what is going on to restore the cinema, including the stalls seats.

From Jan Bridget

Thursday, 11 February 2016

I have it on good authority (a councillor) that the plan is to increase seating in the stalls in Hebden Bridge Picture House when it is refurbished after the floods (hoping to complete by end March) from 250 seats to about 300 seats. Before the floods (see photograph on HBPH website) a row consisted of ten seats in the middle and six on either side (22), unless the plan is to begin the rows nearer the screen and/or put them further back near the toilets, this means there will need to be two extra rows. Two extra rows means significantly less leg room.

Or, to put it another way, I have been told the space between rows is 95 cm. You too can do the test I just did: measure out 95 cm on a metal tape measure, find a chair roughly the same size as the ones in the cinema, put one end of the tape against a wall or something flat and the other at the back of the chair. Now see if you have enough space to walk past someone sitting down in the chair, carrying a cup of tea, without them having to stand up or without you being in danger of spilling your tea. If you can do it and there is enough room, fine. Now ask either a family member or friend, who is on the large size or has problems walking, to do the same.

Oh, and by the say, the seats are going to be 1-2 cm smaller (in width I assume) with the ones at the end of the rows (near the walls?) being smaller. Sorry to sound sceptical but I cannot see how the new seats "will have improved dimensions and levels of comfort. But don't worry – the stalls area will continue to enjoy its superior amounts of generous legroom." Which is what the HBPH is stating.

All this begs the question just what is the purpose of the cinema? To help Hebden Royd make money or to provide a facility much enjoyed by people of Hebden Bridge, the upper valley and even further afield, who come to enjoy a film in a comfortable seat with lots of leg room and a cup of tea or coffee?

From Paul Knights

Friday, 12 February 2016

I am the Chair of the Friends of the Picture House. We are a voluntary group that supports the Picture House through fundraising and practical help, such as repainting the dressing rooms or spring cleans. We have a committee, currently made up of 13 members who have been in place since our last AGM in October. We also have two seats on Hebden Royd Town Council's Picture House Management Committee. I would like to correct some factual errors contained in a previous post concerning the new stalls seating, and the misunderstanding of the motivation behind the decisions that have been taken. I am in a position to do this because the Friends of the Picture House committee was invited by the Picture House Manager to be involved in the decision.

The auditoria seating companies that were bidding on the contract for the new seating each said at the outset that the standard row depth (seat back to seat back) for new theatre-style seat installations on a raked floor was 85cm. There were previously 13 rows of stalls seats in the Picture House, the vast majority of which had a row depth of 115cm. Six additional rows could have been accommodated before hitting the standard row depth for new installations of this type.

In discussions between the Picture House Manager, the Friends of the Picture House committee and the Chair of the Council's Picture House Management Committee, it was decided to add just two new rows. This brings the row depth from 115cm not to 85cm, or to the 95cm incorrectly claimed in a previous post, but to 108cm for the centre section of the stalls and 112cm for the outer sections. We spent a long time with the Picture House Manager testing potential row depths by setting up and measuring the distance between sample new seats, just as Jan Bridget has suggested we do to appreciate how uncomfortable 95cm would be. In fact, the minimum we even tried was 102cm. We concluded that 108cm/112cm still allowed easy passage out of the middle of a row past other seated people.

But why has it been decided to add two extra rows? Why not re-install the seats in exactly the same arrangement as before? Is it, as has been suggested, to 'help Hebden Royd make money'? Thankfully not. In fact the cinema does not make money for the Council. It is not-for-profit, and its funds are ring-fenced and not shared by the Council. If it generates a surplus (which thankfully it has done so since Hebden Royd took over in April 2012), this is reinvested in the cinema. This is being done to make up for a legacy of many decades of underinvestment. Another way in which the modest surpluses have been used is to pay the cinema staff the Living Wage (the real one, not George Osborne's one), in line with Hebden Royd Town Council's commitments as a Living Wage employer.

Also, if you think about it, adding more seats does not automatically make more money. It is very rare that the Picture House turns people away because they are sold out. If this happened very often, a private owner who ran the cinema as a business would see an opportunity to add more seats and make more money. But it does not happen often, and the Picture House is not run as a profit-making business. So again, why the extra rows?

The answer lies in the difficulties presented by having a balcony. And not just in having a balcony per se, but one with its original 1920s cramped seating. It is a fire regulation that if the balcony is opened to customers then a member of cinema staff must be up there at all times. But it is very difficult to predict when the audience numbers will necessitate the balcony being opened. If you predict for a particular screening that the stalls will fill and you will have to open the balcony then you have to book an extra member of staff, or sometimes, for various reasons, two extra staff. But if your prediction is wrong and the stalls don't fill then you have unnecessarily added the costs of the extra members of staff, in addition to the fixed additional cleaning costs that are a consequence of opening the balcony, its toilets and the stairs. If you predict that the stalls won't fill and so don't book an extra member of staff, but your prediction is wrong, then a staff member has to be taken from the foyer to go to the balcony. This leaves the remaining staff members rushed off their feet selling tickets and serving at the kiosk, and the queues for each getting correspondingly longer. Moreover, when the stalls are filled and the balcony has to be opened, it is not uncommon that upon hearing they will have to sit in the balcony customers decide not to come in. This scenario, where there are just enough customers to necessitate opening the balcony, happens surprisingly often (particularly at elevenses screenings and live broadcasts), and there is no way of eliminating the difficulty of predicting when it will happen. But the extra rows (which will add 42 not 44) seats; one of the extra rows will accommodate an additional wheelchair space) will reduce the number of times the balcony has to be opened for only a handful of people, and therefore avoid the extra costs or the extra pressure on staff that are the inevitable result of the difficulty of predicting when the balcony will have to opened. Also, it will reduce the number of times that people who had planned a visit to the cinema but are (understandably) not prepared to sit in the balcony will be disappointed.

So, far from being about making more money, it is about avoiding customer disappointment (either at having to walk away or having to sit in the balcony), reducing pressure on staff and avoiding unnecessary costs, all while meeting fire regulations and keeping customer safety at the heart of the operation of the cinema.

All of these considerations were painstakingly balanced against the marginal reduction in legroom that is a consequence of adding two extra rows. I have to admit that my first reaction to the proposal was to be sceptical and very protective of the legroom, and had the Friends group been unconvinced by the balance of benefit to cost we would have challenged it as best we could. But we listened carefully to the nature of the difficulties it would alleviate and concluded that, on balance, it was worth it.

To my mind, the 3cm/7cm reduction only takes the legroom from extraordinarily generous to very generous. This marginal reduction is, I think, a price worth paying for the benefits. It is true that if you only ever come to the Picture House on quieter screenings and sit in the stalls, you will not directly see these benefits. But to the staff they will be very real, and bear in mind that there may well be occasions in the future when you would have been in the balcony (or walking away) had it not been for the extra seating. The benefit will also be seen in virtue of the the cinema being able to reinvest more in its future from its surplus (including making it more flood resilient), not from 'making more money', but by avoiding unnecessary costs. It is the job of the cinema management to look at all these considerations in the round, bringing to bear their intimate knowledge of the workings of the cinema, and this has, in my opinion, been done with great care and diligence. Due weight was given to the importance of legroom; had it not been, up to four more rows could have been added.

The seats will not be reduced in width by 1-2cm as suggested in a previous post. The seats in the centre of the stalls will remain at 55cm width as before. The outer seats will actually increase in width from 50cm to 52cm.

Through being involved in the clean up after the floods and in some of the decisions since, I have been deeply impressed and reassured by the incredible work of Rebekah Fozard, the Picture House Manager. The amount of extra work that has been occasioned by the flooding of the Picture House is almost inconceivable, from moving the boilers and associated plant up a floor so it does not flood again and building a new boiler room around it, to taking the opportunity to redecorate the entire auditorium while the seats are out, to installing a new fire alarm system, to refurbishing the foyer. In amongst all this, the utmost care was taken to get the decision over the stalls seating right, from approaching four companies to tender for the contract, to inviting a wide range of people (councillors, the Friends, staff, other volunteers) to try the seats, to carefully balancing the various considerations concerning whether to add extra seats, all in consultation with councillors and the Friends of the Picture House.

This has made it very clear to me that those charged with the custodianship of our beloved cinema - the Manager and all the excellent Picture House staff, the Town Clerk and the councillors – are taking the greatest care to ensure a sustainable future for the Picture House, as a community venue, as a good employer and above all, as a great cinema.

They deserve our constructive support at this tremendously challenging time.

From Jan Bridget

Friday, 12 February 2016

I would like to thank Paul Knights for his in-depth response.

I, too, would like to thank the staff for all of their help and support over the twenty-odd years I have been visiting the cinema. Staff at the Picture House are extremely conscientious and jolly and make a trip to the cinema a pleasant experience. They should be treasured, given proper conditions, pay and contracts - this is only right.

I am also delighted the fabric of the cinema is being looked after and look forward to many more years enjoying the unique experience of what Hebden Bridge Picture House offers.

From Steve Sweeney

Friday, 12 February 2016

Thanks Paul for a very clear explanation that should halt the usual speculation that arises with any changes. Can I also echo your thanks to the Cinema mananagement and the excellent job it does.