Islington Empire Theatre
40 Islington High Street,
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Located in the inner London district of Islington. The building underwent several changes during its life. It began in 1860 as a concert hall, known as the Philharmonic Hall. With 1,500 seats, it was designed by architectural firm Finch, Hill & Paraire. Their original facade with its portico and doric columns was retained over the years, and during several rebuilds. In 1874, it was re-named Philharmonic Theatre, with seating reduced to 758.
Rebuilt to the plans of architect Frank Matcham in re-opened on 4th August 1883, but was destroyed by a fire on 29th December 1887.
Matcham designed a new theatre which opened on 1st December 1888 as the Grand Theatre. This had a seating capacity of around 3,000. It was destroyed by fire in February 1900.
A third theatre was again designed by Frank Matcham, and opened as the Grand Theatre in 1901. Decorations within the theatre were carried out by De Jong & Co. It had seating for over 1,600. Re-named Empire Islington in 1908, it was operating as a variety theatre, managed by Walter Gibbons. In 1912, it was re-named the Islington Palace and was operated by Charles Guliver.
Re-named Islington Empire Theatre in 1918, films were being screened as part of the variety programme. In 1932, it became a full time cinema, and was taken over by the Associated British Cinemas(ABC) chain in 1938.
ABC closed the Empire Theatre on 10th March 1962 with Shirley MacLaine in “Spinster” and Terry Thomas in “A Matter of Who”.
The auditorium was demolished immediately, and the land used as a car park, using the original Philharmonic Hall entrance. The rear wall of the stage could be seen for many years. The facade was demolished in 1981 and a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland was built on the site.
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