Purchased for £7,500 the building was originally a theatre. Made entirely from ordinary brick and three storeys high of which only two storeys were in use as the top floor was recessed. A marble staircase took patrons from the stalls with seating for 1,040 to the balcony with 336 seats.
The interior design was attractive with marble columns and illuminated with lamps concealed however it was the gold fittings that were the main feature here.
The first license was granted on 1st June 1915 for Theatre, Music Hall and Cinematograph. However it began it’s history as a cinema on 2nd September 1918 with the an exclusive attraction The Heart Of The Lion accompanied with music by the augmented orchestra.
July 1928 the theatre was taken over and sound films began 16th June 1930. CinemaScope began in 1955 and up until the 1960’s the Empire was screening the leading films of the major circuits, ABC, GB, Rank at later dates, normally for 3 days only with daily matinees and continuous screening.
June 1961 changed mainly to double features until the last and final performance on 8th December 1962, with Jailhouse Rock starring Elvis Presley and The Fastest Gun. In 1986 it closed and became a Bingo Hall.
“We lived in Garston and so we used to go to the Empire and cop off”
This cinema was the last of eight to be opened in Liverpool in 1922, when silent film’s were at their peek of popularity. Just 4 miles out of the City centre this cinema was described as a medium-sized house that could seat an audience of 700. The Lyceum was thought to be the most luxurious picture house in Liverpool’s district.
Opened 11th December 1922 with a popular admission fee of 6d and 1/- it was successful at first, however with the increase of other cinemas in now began to make a loss with the decline of the audience. In 1925, new ownership, a new Managing director William James Grace, a good overhaul and reorganisation on top of a a new name the Empress managed to turn the fortunes of this medium-sized cinema around. The audience capacity now was 750 seater downstairs in the stalls and a further 220 seats in the circle.
When the talkies arrived new sound equipment was introduced the acoustics improved. Film bookings were the best available on general release, with Grace paying particular attention to British films supported by comedies an interest film and News. The sale of cigarettes, sweets and other refreshments only enhanced this cinema’s popularity.
The cinema was leased in 1939 after Grace took over manager role at the New Abbey cinema. Surviving another 20 years under the management of Leslie Bond enduring some difficult times, the last programme was10th October 1959 Never Steal Anything Small starring James Cagney.
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