Empire Cinema

Dunraven Street,
Tonypandy, CF40

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Empire Cinema

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The Empire Theatre of Varieties opened in 1909. From the early days it was screening films as part of the variety programme on the ‘Empirescope’. The Empire theatre was the first in the town to fit sound equipment to screen talkies in 1929. This was a Willis circuit cinema since at least 1937.

It had closed to films in 1963, but was later used for bingo.

Contributed by Editha Pearce

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

edithapearce on April 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

This hall was originally built as a theatre and up to the late 1950s ran a mix of film and live theatre. After that time it mainly ran film and then later Bingo up until the time of it closing. The Willis circuit operated it as a flagship hall. Their other flagship hall being the Grand Theatre in Swansea. In the 1960s I was told several times over that W.E.Willis (circuit founder)was rumoured to have come from this area of the Rhondda Valley and therefore had a special affection for the Tonypandy Empire. It was also said that Mr. Willis (senior) had an interest in boxing and that the hall interior displayed a number of pictures of Tommy Farr who was a Rhondda Valley boxing champion.

edithapearce on April 17, 2009 at 6:51 pm

The Willis Circuit was famed for the way that it cut corners and wasted nothing. In the mid 1960s I had moved to Swansea and was friendly with several of the staff who worked at the Grand Theatre.I heard many tales of the unusual cost cutting practices at this hall.Several friends related a story of the Grand Theatre sometimes issuing admission tickets which carried the words “Empire Theatre.” The box office staff were instructed to cut the word “Empire” off the ticket top,using a pair of scissors,once it had passed through the ticket machine.However,during busy times this was not possible and the tickets were often issued to surprised patrons as was.

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