New Empire Cinema

117 Montagu Street,
Kettering, NN16 8XJ

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New Empire Cinema

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Located in Kettering, Northamptonshire. The Empire Cinema opened on 3rd May 1920 with “The Still Alarm”. It had seats for 400 in the stalls and 100 in the small circle. It was renamed in 1942 to the New Empire Cinema. But unfortunately due to competition from the Savoy Cinema, Gaumont, Regal/Granada and Odeon, the New Empire Cinema was closed on 19th June 1954.

After laying empty and unused for several years, it was converted into a builders merchants. Today the auditorium has been gutted and converted into a tyre/garage.

Contributed by Michael Brent

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

MikeJC
MikeJC on May 19, 2015 at 10:09 am

Apparently the Empire was built for a Mr Bamford who had a photography business in the town. The land was part of the garden of a large house where lived a Mr Newman, who owned a local hardware shop. I don’t think it left much garden for Mr Newman to enjoy! I would question the date of 1942 as it becoming the New Empire, as I seem to remember a significant refurbishment and internal reconstruction taking place in 1949 and the name changing then.

The refurbishment included erection of splay walls either side of the proscenium accommodating emergency exit doors with attractive grille work above; the installation of a suspended ceiling, with bronze grilles for air extraction; new seating in the stalls; a new screen with half-festoon tabs; and the interior being painted in a pleasing shade of apricot. All of this made for a very comfortable environment in which to see a film. A new neon sign on a vertical fin proclaimed, “New Empire” and a nearby shop opened as the New Empire Cafe (complete with a Ditchburn juke-box – remember them?). I don’t know whether there was any tie up with the cinema, as the people who owned and ran the cafe were a Mr and Mrs George Glover.

Unfortunately, within a short time, the cinema screen was ruined when an ice cream was thrown at it and the stain was visible until the day the place closed. Although the projection standards were reasonably high, the ports were set rather low down in the rear wall of the balcony, so that when a tall person used the cross aisle either coming in or going out, the top of their head would impinge with the beam, obliterating part of the image on the screen. Now I must confess that, as children, my friend and I would deliberately use this cross aisle and jump up with arms and hands stretched up to see if we could achieve similar effect. We could. But we were never told off, which leads me to think that the projectionist must have quite often sloped off somewhere to have a crafty cigarette. And from this, you will have gathered that the Empire had a pretty lax attitude to children using the balcony!

MikeJC
MikeJC on May 19, 2015 at 10:16 am

I would question the address given above, as the cinema was actually in Eskdail Street, Kettering, which was a side street off Montague Street. The cafe was in Montague Street, but it was nothing to do with the cinema.

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