Report - - New Empire Theatre, Southend-on-sea - June 2015 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - New Empire Theatre, Southend-on-sea - June 2015


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Was in Southend for a day at the beach but it wasn't really warm enough so checked this out instead. Looked around for the way in and found some other explorers who already knew it!

Once we were inside we actually found some much easier access that would have saved a lot of hassle...

Not the most interesting explore but the building is a bit of a tardis, looks quite small on the outside but there's a lot to see inside, 2 auditoria, a basement bar, backstage facilities, roof. The history below says it was originally built in 1896, then rebuilt in 1920, but from some brickwork I saw in the roof area I would say some of the 1896 construction survives.

Photos by me and my fellow explorer, combination of smartphones and a very old compact digital, neither of us are great photographers...

History from Cinema Treasures:

The site at 22 Alexandra Street has a very interesting past.

Before the current building that now houses the New Empire Theatre was built. The site has been home to the Empire Theatre, the Rivoli Picture House and then ABC Cinema.

The Early Days

The first major construction on the site was a small theatre which had been operating since 1896. With a general downturn in the music hall scene with the new moving pictures entertainment taking off the old theatre was closed

Rivoli Cinema

A complete rebuild took place with the new cinema opening in 1920 to the plans of architectural firm Adams & Coles. There was seating for some 1,500, each seat giving an unobstructed view of the screen, two balconies housed the “family boxes” to provide entertainment before the film live organ music was played.

The cinema played host to many of the great films of the day including “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Ben Hur”. It is also reported that during the many Tom Mix and Buck Jones westerns shown the cinema would make the films even more lifelike by using small explosives at the side of the stage to co-inside with the on screen action!

The cinema was upgraded to coincide with the dawn of “talkies”, then in 1935 the cinema became part of the Union Circuit Group, soon to be taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC)

The cinema was closed in November 1961 to begin a major refurbishment.


After a six month shut down the cinema re-opened on Thursday 7th June 1962 as the ABC, it had undergone a 100,000 pound re-fit making it on of the most modern cinemas outside London and Southend’s first luxury cinema, however seating capacity had been reduced to 1,226.

The first film to be shown at the new cinema was “Escape from Zahrain” directed by Ronald Neame and starring Yul Brynner and Sal Mineo

The cinema was the first to open its own club called the Marine Bar, and in 1976 gained Sensaround. The single screen cinema was closed in early-1980 to be converted into a twin screen cinema, the work completed by May 1980 with seating again reduced by 248 to accommodate 680 seated in the down lower screen 1 and 298 in the upper screen 2.

The cinema was to change its name to the Cannon in the late-1980’s but reverted back to the ownership of the ABC in the mid-1990’s.

The ABC was closed as a cinema in January 1998 after increasing costs and reducing use after the opening of the new Odeon multiplex at the top of the High Street.

New Empire Theatre

The building became the New Empire Theatre, which re-opened on 10th October 1998 with a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” in the main house. The former screen 2 area, which had no stage facilities was converted to be used for ‘studio productions’.

Sadly, 10-years later on 7th November 2008, the landlord called in the baliffs over non-payment of rent, and the New Empire Theatre was closed down.







28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nothing of interest in the projector rooms, both the screens are gone as this was used as a theatre last and I didn't have good enough lighting or a tripod to take decent photos of large rooms!


28DL Member
28DL Member
Hi, I'm new to urban exploring and considering going to this place with a few friends, how did you get into the building? thanks!