43-45 Queen Street,
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Styles: French Renaissance
Previous Names: Levino's Hall, Levino's Museum of Varieties, Pavilion Theatre, Empire Theatre, Empire Palace Theatre
The site in Queen Street had been a music hall, known as Levino’s Hall which opened in 1887 and operated under several names.
In 1889 it became the first theatre to be operated by Oswald Stoll and it re-opened as the Empire Theatre on 30th September 1889. Oswald Stoll employed the celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham to re-build the theatre and it re-opened on 4th May 1886. Fire destroyed most of this building on 30th October 1899 and again Frank Matcham was employed to re-build a new Empire Theatre. It re-opened on 29th September 1900 as the Empire Palace Theatre and had a seating capacity of 1,726.
In 1915 more rebuilding work was carried out, this time by noted theatre architects' W. & T.R. Milburn and the seating capacity was provided for 2,820. By then, Oswald Stoll had joined with Edward Moss and the Cardiff Empire Theatre operated as a major theatre on the Moss Empires theatre circuit.
The Empire Theatre was purchased by Gaumont British Theatres Corporation and they equipped it and made alterations to convert into a cinema, with provision being retained for live shows. It re-opened on 7th September 1931. Live shows ran exlusively during September and October 1932. It closed in June 1933 for extensive alterations to be carried out and re-opened in August 1933. A Compton 3Manual/10Ranks theatre organ was installed and it was opened by Fredric Bayco.
The Gaumont name was adopted in 1954 when the theatre/cinema was programmed by the Rank Organisation, usually receiving the second release behind the larger Capitol Cinema. The Compton organ was removed from the building in 1955 and sold to a church in Bristol.
Much of the internal decoration survived from earlier times and to cope with the very high projection box the screen had to be designed to slope backwards to reduce "keystoning".
As audiences dwindled Rank debated which of their three cinemas to close, and eventually selected the Gaumont, closing on 30th December 1961. Live shows which had been ideally suited to the Gaumont’s large stage and backstage facilities were relocated to the Capitol Cinema where there were some stage facilities but larger seating capacity.
After demolition in 1962, a new building for the now-defunct C&A clothing business was built with a large ballroom in the basement initially bearing the "Top Rank" name. This has now been demolished and replaced by a new building for the clothing chain Primark, which by 2014 had become a Matalan store.
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