Empire Cinema

11 Hall Street,
Dudley, DY2 8NW

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Gaumont-British-Picture Corp., Ltd.

Architects: A.D. Gammage

Previous Names: New Empire Palace of Varieties, Bosco's Picture Pavilion

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Empire Cinema

In Dudley, in the West Midlands, the New Empire Palace of Varieties was opened on 6th May 1903 by music hall star Dan Leno - just one month after he had laid one of the foundation stones! The owner was Tom Prichard, and the theatre seated 1,100 in the stalls and 900 in a huge, steeply raked balcony.

The New Empire began life as a full-time cinema on 8th January 1912 with “Fools of Society”. The presenters were the Pantheon Syndicate, but they appeared to struggle and, on 8th April that same year, Irving Bosco took over. He appointed Bert Dawes as manager, and that appeared to bring about some order. A new electric projector replaced the hand-cranked machine and, for a few years, the cinema was known as Bosco’s Picture Pavilion, but in 1919 it was the Empire Cinema.

At the end of 1920 Irving Bosco sold his cinemas to a Nottingham-based syndicate led by E. C. Shapeero. That company installed rear projection equipment in autumn 1922, but that was abandoned, and a conventional projection box built, when it was acquired by Denman Picture Houses, a subsidiary of Gaumont-British, at the beginning of the sound era.

At first the Cinephone sound system was installed, but that was later replaced by British Acoustic(BA).

However, this was always a hurriedly-built variety theatre, and there was no surprise when it became an early ‘casualty’, closing on 2nd November 1940 with “Let George Do It”, starring George Formby. At closure there were 1,100 seats.

The building was used as a Home Guard training centre, then a warehouse and was for some years home to Dudley engineers Herman Smith.

It was demolished in 1975. A Cousins furniture store occupies the site.

Contributed by David Simpson
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