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Firms: Leathart & Granger
Styles: Art Deco
Previous Names: Dreamland Super Cinema, Dreamland Twin Cinemas
Built on the the site of the 900 seat Dreamland Variety Theatre of 1923, which was later re-named Dreamland Cinema. It was adjacent to the massive Dreamland Amusement Park on Marine Terrace located on the sea front.
The new Dreamland Super Cinema opened on 22nd March 1935 with Greta Garbo in “The Painted Veil” & Laurel & Hardy in “Them Thar Hills”. Architect’s Julian Rudolph Leathart & W.F. Granger came together for the final time (they mutually dissolved their partnership after Dreamland was completed). The spectacular frontage of the cinema was the first of its kind in Britain, having a huge fin tower which gives the building prominence from a great distance along the shore line. There was a large café which had windows giving a view out to sea. Additional facilities included bars and a ballroom.
Inside the auditorium seating was provided for 1,328 in the stalls and 722 in the balcony. The interior design was by John Bird-Iles (son of the owner of the complex) and sculptures of sea nymphs set into recesses each side of the auditorium were the work of Eric Aumonier. The cinema had a fully equipped stage and has a 40ft wide proscenium. It was equipped with a Western Electric(WE) sound system. There is a Compton-Noterman 4Manual/19Rank theatre organ with illuminated console and a grand piano attached which was opened by organist Lewis Gerard.
The cinema was closed from 1940 due to the war and didn’t re-open until 1st July 1946. The Dreamland Cinema was twinned and re-opened on 22nd April 1973 with two cinemas in the former balcony which seated 378 and 376. The former stalls area became a live theatre using the full facilities of the stage. However the live theatre was not a success and closed on 11th January 1975 and was converted into a bingo hall.
A third screen seating 60 persons and using video projection was created in what had previously been the balcony bar area. This opened on 10th May 1981 and continued until closing in 1993 when the Dutch firm Bembom Brothers took over the running of the cinema and amusement park.
It remained open with bingo in the former stalls, where the Compton organ was still occasionally used for concerts. The two cinemas remained open in the former circle area and were operated by the small Independent chain Reeltime Cinemas. Sadly they were closed on 1st November 2007 following closure of the bingo club operation in the former stalls area earlier in the year.
Restoration of the exterior was begun in February 2011, and repairs to the building began in earnest in June 2011. Restoration of the exterior was completed in summer of 2017 and yellow neon has been installed to highlight the building.
In 1992, Dreamland Cinema was designated a Grade II Listed building by English Heritage. In early-May 2008, the building was up-graded to Grade II* Listed.
In March 2022 planning permission was granted to remove the original ‘Dreamland’ signage from the exterior of the building for it to be temporarily replaced by the name ‘Empire’. This was due to the building being featured as a location for the filming of “Empire of Light” (a love story set in a seaside cinema) directed by Sam Mendes and starring Olivia Coleman & Colin Firth. Some scenes were also filmed in the interior where other small temporary changes were made. Filming was completed on 15th May 2022 and all original fittings and signage were fully re-installed. “Empire of Light” was released in the USA in December 2022 and in the UK on 6th January 2023.
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