Empire of Light

In a scene from the film, Olivia Colman shows Micheal Ward the disused upper floor of the Empire Cinema. Apart from a piano and pigeons, there isn't anything left, but the large windows look out onto the seafront

When we visited Margate last year, we saw the sets for the new Sam Mendes film 'Empire of Light'. Now we've finally seen the film.

Leigh and I went to see the new Sam Mendes (written and directed) film Empire of Light this week. Starring Olivia Coleman, it tells the story of a duty manager at a seafront cinema in the early 1980's, her struggles with mental illness and growing awareness of racism through her relationship with new employee Stephen. It's currently nominated for a Best Cinematography at the Oscars, and deservedly so.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this, ever since we came across the outdoor sets in Margate last April. It took us a while to work out what was happening at the time. The Cinema on the seafront isn't really called The Empire (it's actually Dreamland) and those posters on the wall weren't magically preserved from the early 1980s.

The art deco style Empire Cinema created on the Margate seafront with a large block of flats close behind it
A large white hangar style building, presumably housing more film sets, and an alternative cinema frontage. The signs show that the films are The Blues Brothers and All That Jazz
As well as the main cinema location, there was also a second set a couple of doors down, with the frontage of the cinema replicated.

We really enjoyed the film, although didn’t really get to see those great reproduction posters from 1981 on screen. Glad we took some photos!

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