FairWorld Cinema Centre
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This is allegedly the work of the Milburn Brothers (William and Thomas Ridley) who designed such theatres as the Dominion Theatre in London and Mayflower (Empire) Theatre in Southampton.
Looking at the exterior of the Empire Seaham Harbour it is difficult to credit this with much truth, however this does pre-date their monumental theatre work (excepting the Sunderland Empire) and they are known to have designed other buildings in the town, so it is just possible!
The Empire Vaudeville and Picture Palace opened on 1st July 1907 with 1,200 seats. The name was a mouthful that was soon shortened to just Empire Cinema from 1912. It had a good sized stage, but no fly tower and was equipped as a cinema from the start. After 1944, stage use largely ceased. In early-1954 CinemaScope a 4-track stereophonic sound was installed, and Richard Burton in “The Robe” was the first film screened using this process. It was closed on 31st August 1968 with “South Pacific”.
It was purchased by the Durham City based Fairworld Cinemas in 1972 and after repairs and alterations, including installing a false ceiling from the underside of the circle and a new projection box at the rear of the stalls it reopened. The circle was closed off. In early-1979 a serious fire damaged the building. There were plans to reopen as a cinema in the former circle and operate bingo in the former stalls, but these were never realised, and Modernisation Ltd. created a 285-seat cinema in the former stalls area, with the circle, foyer and offices all on the upper floors remaining unused. It re-opened in the autumn of 1979 as the Fairworld Cinema Centre. The Fairworld Cinema Centre was closed in March 1982 and was converted into a bingo which continued until 1993. The whole area was demolished in September 2006 prior to redevelopment.
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