KEIGHLEY Picture House owner Charles Morris has spoken of his delight as the cinema prepares to reopen following a hugely-challenging year.

The North Street premises welcome back the public on Monday, May 17.

“We’re so glad to be reopening at last,” said Mr Morris.

“We’ve been shut for over a year, except for six short days in October. But finally we are reopening, with Peter Rabbit 2 – which will be a hit with the families – and Nomadland, which scooped the principal Oscars this year.

“We have been working hard to get the cinema ready – all the seats and carpets have been cleaned and the outside is being repainted.

“Initially we may have to rope-off some seats for social distancing purposes and we are encouraging people to book tickets on our website for screenings. We expect that masks will be necessary on entry, but can be taken off once people are seated.”

The past 12 months or so may have been unprecedented, but the Picture House has witnessed many landmark events over the years.

The town’s first purpose-built cinema, it opened in May, 1913.

It was taken over by the Essoldo circuit in 1954, before being sold to Classic Cinemas 18 years later.

A conversion to twin cinemas was carried out in the 1970s, when the town’s only other remaining cinema – the ABC – shut.

The 1980s saw the beginning of a turbulent period, when the building was closed due to roof defects, sold to Bradford Council, then taken on by a workers’ co-operative, only for the cinema to shut again in 1991.

Mr Morris then took over the premises and they reopened – following a refurbishment – in July, 1996.

That year saw a charity screening of Genevieve – attended by one of its stars, Dinah Sheridan – and the premiere of a new Jane Eyre film.

Another premiere took place in March, 2001 – for Blow Dry, a movie set in Keighley. Guests included cast member Bill Nighy.

Digital projection was introduced at the Picture House in 2005.

And in 2013, the inaugural RATMA film festival was held.

Whilst the impact of the pandemic on the cinema has been massive, it’s not the first time the building has faced challenges.

In 2012, its existence came under threat when plans were unveiled for a multiplex in the town – but the development didn’t take place.

“The cinema really is the only place to see films and we have an impressive line-up during the coming weeks,” said Mr Morris. “Disney’s new Cruella will be arriving soon.”