Empire Cinema - Ealing
61 New Broadway,
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Firms: Beard & Clare
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Previous Names: Forum Theatre, ABC, Cannon, MGM, Virgin, UGC, Cineworld Cinema - Ealing
Located in the West London district of Ealing on Uxbridge Road (this section now renamed New Broadway in 2022). The Forum Theatre was one of two near identical Forum Theatre’s which were built for Herbert Yapp in 1934 (the other is the Forum Theatre, Kentish Town in the north of London) and both were taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) within a year of opening. Designed by J. Stanley Beard & Clare both had almost identical facades dominated by eight tall columns with a double row of windows between the inner six. Each theatre seated 2,175 on two levels (1,339 in the stalls & 836 in the circle) and each had a large stage with fully equipped fly tower.
The Ealing Forum Theatre was the first to open on 23rd April 1934 with Gracie Fields in “Love, Life and Laughter” on the screen, Debroy Sommers & His Band on the stage for the entire week and organist G.T. Pattman on the Compton 3Manual/9Ranks organ with an illuminated console. Film & stage star Jack Buchanan performed the opening ceremony. The interior of the Forum Theatre had an Italian Renaissance style design with a wide 46 foot rectangular proscenium opening. There was café/dance hall located over the entrance foyer and also a 300-car capacity car park.
It was renamed ABC in 1961, and has undergone many name changes since then (Cannon, MGM, Virgin, ABC, UGC, and Cineworld, Empire). The Compton organ was removed from the building and was installed in the chapel of Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London where it has been converted into a church instrument.
Under ABC control it closed in March 1975 for tripling, reopening 26th June 1975 with 764 seats in screen 1 (the former circle) and 417 seats and 210 seats in screens 2 and 3 (the divided stalls).
From December 2006 it came under the ownership of Empire Cinemas, UK. The seating capacities were: 1. 550, 2. 330 and 3. 170. It was a popular cinema in good condition, showing first run films. The Empire Cinema was closed on 6th September 2008. The auditorium and foyer areas were demolished in early-2009, and a new 16-screen multiplex cinema for Empire Cinemas was planned to be built behind the original façade. It was also planned that the original façade of the former Walpole Cinema, Ealing will be incorporated into the design of the new multiplex.
By April 2012, work had not begun on the rebuild, and the original façade stood shored up supported by scaffold. Despite numerous promises by Empire Cinemas that construction would begin, nothing happened, and in October 2015, Ealing Council passed a Compulsorily Purchase Order on the site. Plans were approved to build an 8-screen cinema, with building work commencing in December 2016 and a projected opening of the cinema in 2018. It was not known who would operate the cinema. The original façade was retained as an entrance to the site which will also include 209 flats, shops and restaurants.
The project was taken over by new owners of the site, and was leased out to Picturehouse Cinemas, to be known as the Ealing Picturehouse. 8-screens were planned to have a total seating capacity of 1,050-seats, and was due to open in 2019. On 9th April 2020, the façade had been restored and behind it, a bar/restaurant named Teatro Hall had opened using space at the front of the building, with apartments at the rear on the site of the former auditorium and car park. (There was no sign of the promised new cinema, and it looked like that part of the redevelopment had fallen through!) The Ealing Picturehouse was eventually built and it opened on 20th October 2023. (It has its own page on Cinema Treasures)
The Forum/ABC/Empire Cinema’s sister cinema, the Forum, Kentish Town (it has its own page on Cinema Treasures), survives as a concert venue and is basically unaltered (Listed Grade II). Some original wooden doors from the Forum/ABC/Empire Ealing were saved, as were pieces of plasterwork. The doors will be installed in the Forum Kentish Town, replacing ones lost in that building over the years.
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