The Empire Music Hall was built by John Scott of the Seven Stars and opened its doors on 1 April 1902. It was designed by Liverpool and Dolgarrog architect Thomas Price. It boasted a seating capacity of 582 and many never before seen safety features like outward opening emergency doors and fire extinguishers. Entering the Empire from Lambpit Street the broad staircase had an encrusted dado rail.
In the event of an emergency there were two further exits, one at the rear of the building and one leading from the Gallery. The interior of the Hall was well fitted and decorated, with electric lighting being fitted throughout the building. Heating of the Hall was by a hot air system. Tip up seats were fitted in the Orchestra Stalls with chairs in the Pit Stalls, the Gallery consisted of benches. At the rear of the stage it had a twenty-one foot opening for the loading of scenery.
John Scott appointed Mr William Gregory as the General Manager; he had previously held the position of Acting Manager at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham and had vast experience with London Theatres.
The Empire had a mixed act of variety shows and short clips of early newsreels as part of its regular programme from its opening night, customers on that opening night were shown the funeral of Queen Victoria, Opening of Parliament by the King, the Battle of the giants – Wales v Scotland and the Boer War. On the stage that night were Miss Eva Nelson, Mike Scott, Miss Almer Heath, George Heath and Miss Mat Venus. It cost 1s for the Orchestra Stalls, 6d for the Pit Chairs and 4d on the benches in the Gallery.
In 1914 the whole of the building was leased to the People’s Popular Picture Company and was now known as the Empire Picture Palace. It then went back to variety theatre use in 1915, with only the occasional film shown.
The Empire Theatre closed on 7th February 1932 with a variety show called “Royal Magnets”. Following a refurbishment it re-opened on 13th May 1932 as a cinema showing talking films, with the film “Let’s Go Native” starring Jack Oakie. The Empire closed in 1939 on the outbreak of World War II, but reopened just two weeks later. The Manager was now Miss K. Nutter. Very little was spent on the building following the war and, with the popularity of television it failed to compete, the Empire Picture House finally closed its doors on 26th August 1956. At the time of closure it was in very poor condition.
Following the closure of the Empire a tyre company then used the auditorium for a number of years and the entrance foyer became an ice cream parlour. The building was incorporated into the adjacent Seven Stars pub (Saith Seren), a Grade II Listed building, built in 1898 also by the architect Thomas Price. In 2013 the cinema’s doors where reinstated to provide entry to the upstairs of the pub. The Empire Picture House remains unused in 2016.
Hi John, sorry we don’t have any interior shots yet, would love to see what it was like. Got a couple of more recent ones which we will add later.
Are there any pictures of teh Empire interior as it was in its prime, and also today?