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In Milford Haven, on the south west Wales coast. The Empire Cinema opened in 1931. The building started life as a roller skating rink, which would suggest an early start for the cinema. However, it is not listed in the 1914 or 1931 Kinematograph Year Books.
It was operated by Alfred W. Newton. By 1937 H.E. Weight of Penrith was the operator. By 1940 the proprietor was Milford Haven Cinemas and “Pictures and Variety” were being advertised, utilising the 20ft deep stage, 32ft wide proscenium arch and two dressing rooms. There were 678 seats. The 1953 edition contains much the same information, with the exception that, by then, there were four dressing rooms.
This enlarged facility for performers clearly assisted the building in becoming a home for amateur dramatics, though presumably these live shows were interspersed with films, as the Empire Cinema is listed in the 1980 Cinema Directory published by the Cinema Theatre Association. By that time, the building was owned by West of England Cinemas, and the seating capacity had been reduced to 475. To add to the attractions, bingo operated three days a week.
It is not known when film shows finally ended, though the building’s end was no doubt accelerated by the opening of the Torch Theatre, with cinema facilities, in 1977.
In November 1983 it was a full time bingo club. The building became a wine warehouse, then in April 1988 it became the Light House, home of the Milford Haven Christian Fellowship.
Unfortunately, by September 2013, the fabric of the building was regarded as being ‘past its sell-by-date’, so the members of the Fellowship decided to join those already established in Nantucket Avenue. It was presumed that the Empire Cinema building would be developed for housing, in keeping with the rest of the street, but perhaps also with some form of community facility.
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