Group Visits at Empire theatre
It is said that history repeats itself - something that seems to ring true with the Empire Theatre, Halstead. The re-opening of the theatre on 27th November 1978 by the Empire Theatre Trust was something unique - the actual physical business of re-opening was by popular demand - "a repeat performance" - because this was not the first time the Empire had been revived as a place of entertainment, although hopefully it would be the last as it became an important part of life in the town.
?The other "revival" of the Empire came in the early 1930's when after standing derelict for several years a grand opening was staged with the then famous George Arliss topping the films-only bill. ?
The Empire has one feature its competitors do not which will be remembered by hundreds of courting couples - double seats at the back of the auditorium.
?In 1951 brothers Ken and Harry Foulconbridge moved to Halstead and bought the Empire. Advertisements at the time described it as "Foremost in Entertainment." The present entrance and facade were added to the building in 1957, also the small petrol station adjoining. The brothers continued to run the Empire until 1971 when once again it closed its doors as a cinema as admissions slumped, mainly due to the new entertainment "TV", increasing problems with licensing and soaring costs.
Happily the building was eventually bought by Halstead Town Council and leased out to the Empire Theatre Trust, a small body of volunteers headed by Brian Stanion and actor Alan Helm who sweated and worked to re-open the cinema against much criticism. The Gala opening was on Monday, 27th November 1978 in the presence of Sir John Ruggles Brise, with the showing of the film "The 39 Steps" starring Robert Powell.
The Empire Theatre still retains a Trust Committee, now responsible for the running of the Theatre since the closure of the cinema side of the business in July 2005. Today it is a completely independently run Theatre for the area, run on a completely voluntary basis and something the town is proud of. Come and see for yourself!