Crewe, CW1 2BZ
Date opened: 4th May 1914 .
Original owners: C W House.
Seating capacity: 938.
Opening film shown: Not known.
The Empire cinema on Heath Street, Crewe opened its doors on the 4th May 1914. In publicity it was described as one of the prettiest and most luxuriously appointed picture theatres in England. The opening film unfortunately wasn’t advertised. The takings from the first performance were given to Crewe’s cottage hospital. Films were advertised from the second week. From Monday 11th May for three days ‘A Neglected Wife’ was screened. They, Fri, Sat attraction was ‘The Mystery of the Old Mill’ Advertising stated Have you been to the Empire? No? Then Go At Once!
The theatre was built by a Mr C W House, who had a furniture business, which he had demolished to make way for the Empire. In 1927 the cinema was taken over by a Mortimer Dent who ran C D cinemas. Around 1929 the ABC circuit ran the building. Seating was for 938 and there were private boxes. The seating was plush throughout. The Empire Furnishing Co manufactured these in their Crewe factory. All the seating was covered in rose pink flush.
Up in the operating box there was an RCA sound system. The press described the Empire as the last word in a picture palace. The proscenium was 29 feet wide and it was described as the Premier Picture House and the Premier Cinema.
The scheme of decoration was charmingly executed and representative of Wedgwood ware. The walls were finished in Wedgwood blue and panelled with ornamental fibrous plaster. Steam radiators were installed to keep patrons warm.
On the 5th August 1929 it screened Crewe’s first talkie ‘The Singing Fool’. It became known as ‘The Home of Perfect Talking Pictures. In September 1941 it was taken over by cinema proprietor Arthur Hand, who ran the Kino and the Grand. He ran the hall until the 3rd August 1963. By this time it was the only cinema he had. The reason for closure was ill health. Arthur Hand, who had run the cinema with his wife passed away in 1964 aged 69. The Empire was the last independent cinema in the town.
From the 17th November 1966 it was run as Surewin Bingo club This was run by the Burnley company Hutchinson’s. The Empire like many cinemas before and since was victim of the wrecking ball.
David A Ellis & Bryan Lindop chestercinemas.co.uk