Empire X Cinema Club
80 John William Street,
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The Empire Picture House opened on 8th March 1915 with “Kismet”. It was designed by the local firm of Stocks & Sykes in a Greek Revival style, and had 870 seats divided between stalls and single balcony which had an unusual three-sided flat front.
It was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) briefly in 1933 and disposed of to Goldstone Cinemas (an independent) in May 1940. It was closed and modernised internally at this time, when it was given an Art Deco style. There was a new larger proscenium and detailing of the flank walls containing concealed lighting. In 1946 it was taken over by the J.F. Emery Circuit, and they operated it until 1971.
It became a sex cinema, after film baring caused such problems that the owner gave up trying to book commercial films. This has gradually shrunk in size (it now occupies a small part of the balcony) but unlike almost all other such venues, it has not closed completely and operates as the Empire X Cinema Club.
In recent years a bed warehouse occupied the tiny foyer with a cyber cafe in the rear stalls area. The sub-divided front stalls area is used for bed storage. In 2011, the front foyer is in use as a second-hand clothing shop. The front part and the ceiling are in poor condition although the facade has been redecorated in the spring of 2002.
In 1998, the Empire Picture House was designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage.
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