Channel 4 chooses historic Majestic building for its new HQ in Leeds
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Channel 4 chooses historic Majestic building for its new HQ in Leeds

By White Rose Park April 2019
Image credit: Rushbond

Earlier this month, it was revealed that public service broadcaster Channel 4 was in ‘advanced negotiations’ to lease space in the historic Majestic building in Leeds as it’s new national HQ, following the announcement last October that they would be relocating from London to the West Yorkshire city.

The Majestic building is located in the heart of Leeds City Centre and sits right next to Leeds Railway Station. It will accommodate several high-profile employees at Channel 4; including the Managing Director and several programme commissioners in a move that will see over 1,000 jobs move from London to Leeds.

Channel 4 News will also base their news hub in the Grade-II listed building and will regularly co-anchor the award-winning programme from a new studio, which will be built within the space.

The Majestic is currently still undergoing construction work following a fire that broke out in 2014, with the building predicted to be completed in June of this year, giving the broadcaster plenty of time to make preparations for their move in the second half of 2020.

We’ve delved into the archives and taken a look at the story of the Majestic, since its inception nearly 100 years ago.

The history of the Majestic

1922 – 1969: The Majestic Cinema

The story of the Majestic began in 1922, following the Great War. Majestic was built and opened as a “super cinema” for the people of Leeds, seating up to 3,000 people in a fan-shaped auditorium. The silent romantic drama ‘Way Down East’ was the first film to be shown at Majestic, attracting 50,000 people in its first week.

In 1932, the cinema installed earphones for the hard of hearing after the coming of ‘talkies’ in the film industry. The building also boasted a restaurant seating 300 plus a basement ballroom.

It remained as a cinema for nearly 50 years before eventually opening as a bingo hall in 1969.

1969 – 1996: The Majestic Bingo Hall

Following the closure of the Majestic Cinema, the building was turned into a Top Rank Bingo Hall. Bingo had previously taken place in the cinema ballroom from 1961 but was fully transformed into a space for the game in 1969.

At its peak in the mid-1980s, the bingo hall was attracting crowds of 10,000 people each week. It remained as a bingo hall for 27 years before being renovated into the nightclub that most Leeds residents will remember Majestic for.

1996 – 2006: The Majestyk Nightclub

After a £5m makeover, the Majestyk Nightclub opened its doors for party-goers and revellers in 1996, opening its doors five nights a week.

The nightclub attracted thousands of visitors over the next decade before eventually being shut by owners Luminar Leisure in 2006. The smaller downstairs venue ‘Jumpin’ Jacks’ remained open, and the upper room of the building continued to be used as a concert venue until its closure in 2008.

2006 – Present: The Fire and Channel 4

Work began on Majestic in 2012 to convert the space for mixed retail and leisure, and the project was nearly complete before a fire erupted in late 2014, destroying the roof and interior of the building.

In February of 2018, it was announced that construction work would be taking place to “bring vibrant new life” to the Majestic, following a £40m investment from Leeds-based property firm Rushbond.

Just over a year later, Majestic has been identified as the new home of Channel 4, opening a new chapter in the history of the iconic building and playing a pivotal role in a groundbreaking move for the public service broadcaster.

How Channel 4’s Majestic move will benefit Leeds

As previously mentioned, Channel 4’s decision to move to Leeds ahead of several major cities in the north of the UK will bring over 1,000 jobs to the area, and is expected to boost Leeds’ economy by £1bn.

Furthermore, Channel 4’s decision shows that Leeds is a key player in the digital sector in the UK, and is able to hold its own against the likes of Manchester and Birmingham. Further investment has already been made in Leeds following the move, with more and more businesses in the sector opting to follow in the footsteps of the UK’s fourth biggest broadcaster.

Finally, the fact that Channel 4 has decided to relocate to a building in the heart of Leeds shows just how committed they are to becoming immersed in the city in which they’re moving in to. As one of the first buildings that millions of people will see upon leaving Leeds Railway Station each year, the Majestic serves as a perfect location for Channel 4 to integrate into its new home with ease.

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