Empire Cinema, Widnes.

Empire Cinema

Widnes Road,

Widnes, WA8 7NN


Date opened: Monday 31st May 1937.

Year Closed:  1983.

Owner:  Century Pictures (Widnes) Ltd.

Architect:  Alfred Ernest Shennan.

Building Contractor:  John Dimmer and Son Ltd, Liverpool.

Seating Capacity:  1200.

Opened by:  The Mayor~ Councillor P Henley.

First film shown:  ‘Dodsworth’ starring Walter Huston.

First General Manager:  Mr W. Dawson.



The Empire Widnes was one of several in the town. Others included the Plaza and Regal. The Regal was equipped with four track magnetic sound. The Empire is now just a memory as it became a victim of the wrecking ball.

Opened on Monday 31st May 1937 with the feature ‘Dodsworth’ starring Walter Huston. It was originally run by Century Pictures (Widnes) Ltd and was opened by Councillor P Henley. The architect was Alfred Ernest Shennan, who designed a number of cinemas in the Liverpool area, including the Mayfair, Aigburth. The cinema stood on Widnes Road, a main road running through the town. The first person to manage the hall was a Mr W. Dawson, who had been transferred from the Century cinema.

Seating was for 1200 and There were a number of exits allowing patrons to vacate quickly.  A striking feature of the main auditorium was the main ceiling with skylights set in flush, giving, when lighted, a soft glow to the theatre. The auditorium rose in a gentle slope from the stage end to a main cross gang-way. From there it rose in stepping to the rest of the cinema. Flanking the proscenium were two large coves with coloured flood lighting.

The walls of the foyer were panelled in birdseye maple and figured walnut with bands of sycamore inset.

There was a large car park at the rear and side accommodating around 200 cars.

Up in the operating box was The British Talking Picture (BTP) sound equipment. The Empire was the first cinema on Merseyside to install a Projectomatic unit, which gave various auto operations such as lights dimming and changeovers. The chief operator at the time of its installation in 1956 was a Mr Arthur Snelson.

Constructions work was carried out by John Dimmer and Son Ltd. of Low Hill, Liverpool. Seating was supplied by CR Harrison and Sons Ltd.

A local firm, Frank Johnson was responsible for the attendant’s uniforms. The window curtains were supplied by Heaton Tabb and Co Ltd, Bold Street,  Liverpool.

The painting and decorative work was carried out by  AH Beesley of Hough Green.

For many years the cinema was run by Cheshire County Cinemas. It was said that they took control in the 1950s. In late 1972 it was turned into a twin cinema known as Empire 1 and 2. Cheshire County Cinemas  had several halls in Widnes, including the Plaza in Peel House Lane.

Pictured shortly nefore demolition in 1986.

The Empire cinema closed in 1983 and was demolished by 1986. The Kingsway Leisure Centre was built on the site.


David A Ellis ©chestercinemas.co.uk