Garston Empire Theatre

James Street,
Liverpool, L19 2LS

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Bedford Cinemas (1928) Ltd.

Architects: Joseph Pearce

Styles: Neo-Classical

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Garston Empire Theatre

The Garston Empire Theatre in the Garston suburb of Liverpool, opened on 5th June 1915, three years after the scheme was first proposed. It appears that the plans, there were several, were adaptations of the initial design, and were collectively the work of several architects. It was constructed by R. Costain and Son at a cost of £7,500 which included the site!

The Garston Empire Theatre seated 1,040. Of these almost 700 were in the stalls and pit, 336 in the single balcony and the remainder were in the two private boxes, one either side of the stage at balcony level. The stage had a high arched proscenium of approximately 30 feet width, behind which was a fully equipped stage of approx 35 feet depth. There was an orchestra pit and 8 dressing rooms. The auditorium was embellished with deep Edwardian plasterwork and the foyers were dressed in marble.

From the start films formed part of the variety entertainment. These were dropped in 1916 when live entertainment in the form of plays began a season. This was followed by revues until the end of August 1918 when the Garston Empire Theatre was turned over to films only.

Western Electric(WE) sound was installed and the first talkie was Nancy Welford in “Gold Diggers of Broadway” on 16th June 1930. On 8th December 1962 the projectors rolled for the final time with Elvis Presley in “Jailhouse Rock”, supported by Glenn Ford in “The Fasted Gun Alive”.

The Garston Empire Theatre then began a 46 year period as a bingo hall which ceased in 2009. Since 2012 the Garston Empire Theatre has been on the Theatres Trust ‘Theatres at Risk’ register. In the summer of 2019 a steering group ‘The Friends of Garston Empire’ was formed, headed by local entrepreneur Tony Murray, with a proposed £5M project to transform the theatre into a live theatre again, with some cinema use.

Contributed by Ian Grundy

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Philip Picturedrome
Philip Picturedrome on July 28, 2010 at 2:20 am

The first plans were drawn up by Cecil Masey (of Granada cinemas fame).
When built it was credited to Joseph Pearce, but still looks substantially like Masey’s design.
A pity it’s so ugly on the outside.

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