Hove Electric Empire

76-77 George Street,
Hove, BN3 3YP

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Additional Info

Functions: Retail

Previous Names: Electric Theatre, Electric Empire Picture Palace

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Hove Electric Empire

In December 1910 Hove Council gave planning permission for the towns first purpose built cinema to be built. It opened as the Electric Theatre on April 11, 1911, and had 350 seats. It was nicknamed by locals as “The Electric” and the first owner was A.K. Stewart.

The auditorium had a small orchestra pit and its proscenium was 16ft by 16ft and was decorated with classical figures playing musical instruments.

From 1916, the cinema was owned by Lewonski & Sons and it is they who renamed it the Hove Electric Empire (Not to be confused with the Empire Electric in nearby Haddington Street, Hove). Eventually Mr Lewonski leased the cinema to a host of different operators but during the time that he ran it directly himself, he was very popular and was fondly nicknamed “Old Wonkey”.

A Westrex sound system was installed in December 1931. The Hove Electric Empire, along with it’s Haddington Street rival, couldn’t compete with the openings of the nearby Lido (Odeon) and Granada super cinemas nearby and it closed in January 1934 after a screening of “Jack’s the Boy” starring Jack Hulbert and Cicely Courtneidge, which by then was already two years old and had been played to death in the area.

The former cinema has had many uses over the decades and in 2016 it is an EE Mobile Phone shop.

Contributed by Nick Prince
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