Report - - New Empire Theatre / ABC Cinema - Southend-on-Sea, Essex - October 2014 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - New Empire Theatre / ABC Cinema - Southend-on-Sea, Essex - October 2014


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(picture not my own)​

The New Empire Theatre was built in 1896 by theatre impresario Frederick Marlow. He had owned the public hall previously on the site, and converted it to The Empire Theatre in 1892. A fire on Boxing Day 1895 destroyed the building. Marlow took it upon himself to rebuild a bigger, better theatre, with five floors and electric lighting.

The theatre was the first of its kind in Southend, and was called 'the prettiest theatre outside of London' by local press at its opening in 1896. Marlow presented a varied programme ofmusicals, opera, concerts, plays, variety and music hall. He remained at the theatre until 1905 when it was taken over by the Southend-on-Sea Theatre Company Ltd. The following fourteen years the theatre was run on a leasehold basis by various people, including Albert Marchinsky, an illusionist known as "The Great Rameses", a successful magician and music hall entertainer who spent some time pursuing theatre management as a career.

By 1919, the advent of moving pictures had brought about many changes in Southend, and the theatre closed its doors, making way for an enlarged and magnificent cinema, The Rivoli. From 1921 to 1962, the Rivoli thrived as a cinema, in 1929 installing sound equipment to facilitate the talking pictures. In 1962, the Rivoli was taken over by the ABC chain and underwent further refurbishment, including the addition of a Marine Bar underground, making use of the old Empire passageways. The cinema continued for another 20 years, and in 1982 was twinned to create a second, smaller cinema at the old Rivoli Mezzanine level.

By 1998, the popularity of cinema as a whole had diminished, and one of many casualties in Southend was the ABC. In February 1998, it showed its last film, and the venue was once again closed.


Explored with Robg172, Slayaaaa and Oakley, this was the third explore of a rather successful derpy day out in sunny Southend-on-Sea.

I had always wanted to take a wander around inside this place again due to fond memories of many a Saturday (and the odd bunked school day :D) spent here as a kid. Probably the most fun access (and exit) I’ve had so far, I was chuffed to finally be back inside after so many years.

The site itself is bigger than it looks from the outside with a main theatre stage and cinema there is also an abundance of projection rooms, dressing rooms, storage areas, corridors and cellars. Sadly the old bar area was very much secured and was the only area we didn’t get to see.

Upon reaching the top floor we came across a ladder leading up to the roof which was nice. Not so nice was having to try and tiptoe through about two inches of liquid sludge and pigeon shit to get to it but after reaching the top it was worth the effort.

A personal highlight was finding the very seats I remember sitting in to watch such cinematic gems as Jurassic Park and The Fifth Element as a kid. Memories!

Overall it was a fun explore with plenty to see and a little bit of nostalgia thrown in to boot. Thanks to robg172, slayaaaa and Oakley for the good company, laughs and teamwork on what was an enjoyable day. Looking forward to seeing your shots :thumb











This was weird. Found a chair in one of the upstairs corridors in front of a peephole that looked down onto the main theatre auditorium...








And for a laugh...Live on Stage


Hope you enjoyed :thumb
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Authorised Trespasser
28DL Full Member
Absolutely amazing work mate given the poor light, nicely done! :thumb


Authorised Trespasser
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A few additional from my roll:

Main reception doors

Piano shot (alternative angle) - hope you don't mind, I know how you love your pianos Boomstick!! :)

Just for fun - a bit of light painting on the stage


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Mmm that place has gone a tad down hill!
It sure has, I last went in probably about 6 months after your report on the place in 2011, lights were still on but was a little more trashed. Sadly now most cables have been stripped and has gone a lot more downhill. However it was still a good explore and saw a lot more than I did before! Cheers guys, got some good shots!


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Spot on that, enjoyed those photos. It can be really dark inside old cinemas and theatres, but you've managed to get some really good shots out of it.
Ta mate, it was literally pitch black in there in places and this was my first proper attempt at light painting (along with some of the other guys too I believe) so it was a good learning experience! :)

Mmm that place has gone a tad down hill!
Yeah, looks like it has definitely taken a bit if punishment since your report (looked great back then) but I expected it to be worse to be honest.

i went there loads as a kid , last film i saw there was ET , looked a bit tidyer then tho lol
Certainly did. Loved that place as a kid, had "proper" cinema feel to it unlike all these modern multiplex cinemas. Just not the same anymore :(


28DL Full Member
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It is so very sad to see how the Empire has become so dilapidated. We had ten very good years in there form 1996 to 2008. It was a very popular venue. I would add some pictures of the Empire whilst it was open if I could do it from file, but it is too much trouble to do it from a URL. Sorry.

Daniel (technical director, Empire Theatre, 1996-2008).


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It is a shame to see what was once a great place reduced to the way it is now. I have very fond memories of the place but I imagine you would even more so if you spent so long working there.

If ever you get a chance to upload your pictures sometime I would love to see them. :thumb


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Cool report and loving the extra pics from Slayaaaa and especially Daniel ^ it's always nice to see what a place looked lke in it's hey day and there are some great action shots there :thumb


28DL Regular User
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Cheers for taking the time to post these up mate.

Recognize quite a few of those back areas from when we went and it's great to see some pics of it in it's former glory. Brings back some memories!

Thanks again :thumb

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