Empire Cinema, Torquay.

Empire Cinema

13 Victoria Road,

Torquay, TQ1 1HT


Date opened:  12th May 1913.

Building Contractor:  R. Tucker.

Cinema operated by:  Anderton and Rowland.

First General Manager:  Horace P. Tucker.

Seating Capacity: 450.

First sound film shown:  “Broadway Melody”, starring Charles King and Anita Page.

Date closed:  1963.

Demolished:  April 1989.



Torquay was home to a number of cinemas including The Regal and the Burlington. One of the oldest cinemas was the independent Empire in Ellacombe, opening its doors on the 12th May 1913. The cinema was run by Arthur Rowland, part of Anderton and Rowland. In 1934 ownership was changed and It was run by a Captain Willis.

It hadn’t been open long when it closed for a week in September 1913 for interior redecorating and re-opened with pictures and variety. The first manager was a Mr Horace P. Tucker, who was the son of the proprietor.

By October 1913 seating had been improved an orchestra of six musicians was employed.

Click the above frame to watch the trailer for “Broadway Melody”

The Empire was the first cinema in the town to screen Talkies and was advertised as Torquay’s Premier Talkie Theatre. The first sound film was ‘Broadway Melody’ screened from the 23rd September 1929 using the Western Electric sound system. This was followed by Jolson’s The Singing Fool.

The small 450 seat hall ran without a break until November 1959 When due to the high entertainment tax being one of the factors it closed its doors. It was given a new lease of life, re-opening on Easter Sunday the 17th April 1960. The films shown were ‘Don’t Give up the Ship’ and The Buccaneer’.

New lighting, curtains, carpets, air conditioning and heating were installed. The ceiling was given a coat of gold paint. By the end of July 1960 it was called LA Continentale Empire, being advertised for the first time under that name for the 22nd July. It screened mainly X product under its new name. Later it was named LA Continentale & Classic Empire. Films ceased for good in 1963.

The building was demolished in 2004-2005.


David A Elliscopyright whitechestercinemas.co.uk


Re Empire Torquay.   I have been in the cinema business all my life and would like to share one of the stories as follows.  The Empire was shut during the last war and up to let. Vincent Wareing (well known in the trade) went into the real estate agent and said “I see the Empire is available to rent”. The agent said “the owner is in the forces and I am on my own, so if I give you the key so you can go and have a look around”.  Several weeks later the owner was on leave, went into the agent and said “I’m delighted to see the cinema is let and open”.  “Oh dear” said the agent “he never did bring the key back”. Knowing Vincent from years ago, I believe this to be true.

BILL PRYOR, Lynton Cinema, Devon.