Report - - The New Empire Theatre - Southend on Sea - April 2011 | Theatres and Cinemas | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The New Empire Theatre - Southend on Sea - April 2011


Got Epic?
Regular User
Humm i was supposed to be having a weekend off from exploring but some how it seems ive ended up in here!

This theatre has lead a rather hectic life. The history i have found gives an incite into some of the changes it has gone through but i found it hard to make everything tally up once inside.. To me it has a very 1930s frontage, yet some hidden areas inside seemed much older almost as if it had been 're-fronted' at some point. I failed to find my way to the original projection room and although i could see the loft access it was a tad too blatant for the time of day! The place had been chopped about something rotten at the top and every odd door or roof hatch just lead to another blocked doorway or breeze block partition.. very frustrating!! That said it was good to get a look inside, both screens were nice and you could easily make out what changes had gone on to convert it from single screen in the 60s.. The basement bar was fun, lots of un-opened bottles of random alcopops ftw! Pitty there was no Hooch really!

cinematreasures said:
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 for some time before 1919. 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, 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-1980'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.

















"Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
28DL Full Member
This looks sweet, might check this out ......:thumb


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Saw JAWS here around 1976, may have been the first in the Sensuround mentioned in your history. Big shame most of these dream palaces have fallen into decay.


"Take only pictures, leave only footprints"
28DL Full Member
Saw JAWS here around 1976, may have been the first in the Sensuround mentioned in your history. Big shame most of these dream palaces have fallen into decay.
I've been past this place so many times, without even realizing what it was :banghead