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The Empire Theatre was opened on 19th October 1897. Originally presenting stage plays with actor’s such as Sir Henry Irving appearing, and opera by the Carl Rosa Opera Company. It became a variety theatre from 28th December 1908. Top names in music hall then appeared here, including Ellen Terry, Albert Chevalier, George Robey, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel. From 1911 it operated as a silent cinema. In August 1920 an organ was installed to accompany the silent films, which was played by organist William Lawton. Big films over the years were “Ben Hur”, “Disraeli”, “Grand Hotel” and “All Quiet on the Western Front”. A British Thomson Houston(BTH) sound system was installed in August 1930 and the Empire Theatre was taken over by the H.D. Moorhouse Circuit.
It continued for many years with cine-variety programmes. The Empire Theatre was closed on 31st August 1969 with the 1962 film “Tender is the Night” starring Jennifer Jones. The building then lay empty and unused and gradually rotting away. It was purchased in the late-1970’s by a property developer who had plans to build shops and offices and a car park on the site. The Empire Theatre was demolished in February 1981, with just the lower sections of the outer walls surving. Around 200, the site was redeveloped and a Liquid/Envy nightclub now stands on the site.
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