Empress Cinema

Higher Road,
Urmston, M41

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Associated British Cinemas Ltd., Union Cinema Co. Ltd.

Architects: Francis Edison Drury, Joseph G. Gomersall

Firms: Drury & Gomersall

Styles: Art Deco, Moorish

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Empress Cinema

Located in Urmston, Lancashire, to the west of Manchester. Originally built as a roller skating rink, the Empress Cinema originally opened in around 1929. Seating was provided for 900 and the decor consisted of flats and cut-outs erected on each side of the screen which depicted Italian scenes, taking away the plainess of the auditorium. There was no plaster ceiling, just the roof trusses showing.

In 1934 it was re-designed into an Art Deco style cinema by architects Drury & Gomersall. A balcony was added and the seating capacity was now 1,228. A new proscenium was also added which was 35 feet wide. It re-opened as the Empress Cinema on 5th August 1935 with Will Hay in “Radio Parade of 1935”. On 29th June 1936 it was taken over by the Union Cinemas circuit, who in turn were taken over by Associated British Cinema(ABC) in October 1937.

The cinema had a large dome over the foyer which is why I suggest Moorish in it design.

Finally it closed on 11th October 1958 and was demolished in 1962 for a shopping center.

Contributed by Divad, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Divad on July 14, 2008 at 8:54 am

The description given for the origin of this cinema would have to be questioned. My source shows no such thing regarding a roller rink and I believe there must be some confusion about this particular Empress.

Divad on July 14, 2008 at 1:08 pm

I am familiar with the ad and photo shown, I question the opening date and the roller rink statement. My documents show a 1921 beginning but as a cinema.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Divad, The extra details I added to your initial opening description are taken from a booklet ‘Ninety Years of Cinema in Urmston’ by Brian Hornsby (who’s series of books are based on research he undertakes in local library’s) and from Allen Eyles book ‘ABC-The First Name in Entertainment’, published by the Cinema Theatre Association and the British Film Institute. I trust both these usually reliable sources for my additional information, but if you know otherwise, please let us know.

Divad on July 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

This is from Trafford Local Studies;
“The Empress opened as a silent film cinema in c1929 with 900 seats. It was enlarged and reopened on 5 August 1935 with 1,228 seats. The architects were Drury and Gomersall. It was taken over by Union Cinemas on 29th June 1936, then by ABC in October 1937. It closed on 11th October 1958. Demolished 1962."
No rink. Another source was the local historian Alan Crossland, no rink.
We are all of the opinion that Brian is referring to another landmark which was the Billiard Hall around the corner from the Empress. This was converted into a roller rink at one time.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 15, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Divad, Thanks for the clarification, I will make the neccessary amendments to the opening text.

Divad on July 15, 2008 at 6:52 pm

Thank you Ken, I feel comfortable with that now. I would like to have heard from the author but I guess we will have to wait and see. He may have knowledge unknown to us all.

Divad on November 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

I return to this page, cap in hand and full of apologies. Having obtained a copy of the mentioned book I followed this up. The source of Trafford Library has me apologizing to Ken Roe and Brian Hornsby, I was incorrect, it was a rink before it became a cinema.

Tinribs on March 2, 2013 at 4:11 am

I worked as a Proectioist at the Empress whilst it was under ABC control. The projection Room (Box)was down stairs and had an entrance at street level from Higher Road. The equipment was Kalee(Rear Shutter)Model 8 projectors wit Ross Arc Lamps mounted on Western Electric “universal base” with sound heads the sound was Western Electric “Wide Range” system. The Tabs Curtains) were manual operated from back stage.

                    Ray Batten           
johnmartins on November 7, 2014 at 10:04 am

The date of closure of the Empress is definitely wrong I was born and brought up just round the corner from this cinema in 1944 and spent most of my spare time in there and I know that I had left school 1959 and was going out with a particular girl and this was in 1960 as we use to get in early for one of the double back row seats,. Also I saw the film “A Summer Place” there 7 times, and this was not released till 1959.

Chrisw on October 1, 2016 at 7:39 pm

Useless piece of information – I have one of the ’S' from Empress in my shed.

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