Portillo's Hidden History of Britain

The Palace of Dreams

Series 2 - Episode 4 The Palace of Dreams



Michael Portillo sits in the shell of the gigantic former New Victoria cinema in Bradford, abandoned since 2000, watching a projection of Lauren Bacall teaching Humphrey Bogart to whistle in To Have and Have Not.

The young Michael was a Bacall fan and adored the film: “The dialogue drips with sex.” Oooh, cheeky. Portillo talks to Bradford cinema-goers and two members of the team that helped to save the New Victoria from demolition, as they share memories of a beloved landmark and fun-palace.

There’s a lovely story about the Beatles, too, told by a woman who was just five when she sat on John Lennon’s lap after their New Victoria gig in a moment captured by a treasured photograph.

And Portillo shows us his twinkle toes as he joins gentlemen and ladies in 1940s dress as they hold a tea dance.


In the late 1930s there were almost 5,000 cinemas in Britain. Bradford's New Victoria was one of the most impressive buildings from that golden age, when thousands came at a time to experience the magic of the silver screen. Boasting a 3,000-seat cinema, decadent ballroom and state-of-the-art technology that even washed the air, it closed down for the final time in the year 2000. On a visit to its abandoned shell, Michael Portillo peels back the layers to discover what dream palaces like this meant to generations of Britons who came to lose themselves in movies and music.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Portillo
Executive Producer Jazz Gowans
Series Director Ruairi Fallon
Series Producer Ruairi Fallon
Documentary History