Empire Cinema

Freer Street,
Walsall, WS1

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Three Coins in the Fountain

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The Empire Cinema was built on the site of Walsall’s Temperance Hall by Mr T. Jackson no relation to another T. Jackson who had opened cinemas in Walsall and went bust.

The opening programme on 28th August 1933 was “Letting in the Sunshine” starring Albert Burdon and directed by Lupino Lane, supported by “Slightly Married” starring Marie Prevost. Designed by architect J.H. Hickton, it was built by the Bloxwich building firm J&F Wooton. Seating was provided in stalls and circle levels. The cinema was equipped with Western Electric projection equipment, later in 1954 changed to BTH.

Clifton Cinema (Walsall) Ltd., merged interests with Alexander Cinema “Lower Gornal” Ltd . This bought Kenneth Jones into Clifton and was made General Manager of all the Clifton Cinemas. In 1939 the Clifton Cinemas chain took over the Cinema De Luxe Walsall and renamed it Classic Cinema.

In 1954 the Empire Cinema became the first Walsall town centre cinema to have a 20th Century Fox authorised CinemaScope installation complete with Four Track Magnetic sound. The first CinemaScope film was Richard Burton in “The Robe”. The Clifton company went to town on the cinema, and refurbished to a high standard with a new proscenium, festoon curtains, new presentation lighting and a 30ft screen. Renovations were carried out to the plans of architectural firm Satchwell & Roberts.

The Empire Cinema was closed and sold 24th October 1964, the final film was “Cleopatra” starring Elizabeth Taylor. It was demolished in February 1965, and Debenhams department store now stands on the site.

Contributed by Mike Blakemore
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