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Brightlingsea Town Guide


The Empire Cinema -  later the Regal

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Brightlingsea cinema opened Boxing Day 1912 as the Empire Theatre of pictures and Variety. The first General Manager was Harry Carr, A well known seaside entertainer who was then performing in the town with his Merry Scamps concert party. Erected by Mr H E Frost and Messrs. Blyth Bros. The Empire was a project of a local syndicate with Charles Leverett as secretary and later the Manager.
Dcp84693.jpg (113578 bytes)The opening performance did not have a happy debut, this having to be abandoned halfway through, this being due to the ‘engine stopping’, but all went well the next day when a large house enjoyed a good show of pictures. Mr Lax of Wivenhoe was the pianist followed later by Mr Reg Cox also Mrs Annie Annis. Many of the local residents and visitors will recall the thrills provided as cowboys and Indians galloped into action to their piano accompanist.
During World War I Australian engineers who were training here staged many a variety concert at the Empire.
The first change of ownership came when the Empire was purchased by Douglas Bostock, the Ipswich Hippodrome proprieter and like his father prominent in this part of the world for his involvement with the growth of the cinema.
A further change in 1938 the renaming to The Regal and during World War II the picture programs were implemented by local entertainment on stage.
1957 saw a further change of ownership. Charles Sellens became the popular owner. The late Colin Woods son of the late syndicate directors became his manager. Mr Sellens already owned cinemas in the area and in addition to making constructional improvements was able to provide programs comparable to many of the larger cinemas. All appeared to go well during the time when the cinema industry as a whole enjoyed a boom period. The came the decline in the attendance due to the expansion of television. Undaunted Mr Sellens fought this new competition with a scheme of complete reconstruction drawing heavily on his finances to provide a smart up to date building of which Brightlingsea had every reason to be proud. In a dwindling market it was indeed a brave venture, and one that earned the commendation of the townsfolk. But audience attraction was the objective and in this it failed. Like so many of its kind the Brightlingsea Regal had to give way to the lure of fireside armchair viewing. So in February 1959 Charles Sellen decided to close. This decision also meant the end of the Children’s Cinema which since the early 1950’s had met every Saturday morning. Five months later of 6th July in association with Mr & Mrs Cox and their daughter Peggy, of Ipswich, Mr Sellens attempted a comeback. Mr Cox was also the proprietor of the Ideal Cinema at Lavenham and had provided film entertainment in the Suffolk village for many years. The evening’s program was preceded by an informal reopening ceremony performed by Mrs Winifred Craig, the popular and successful teacher of elocution and drama locally and wife of the New Church Minister. But this brave venture was short lived and Brightlingsea finally lost its Cinema.
In 1964 the building was taken over by Ormandy and Stollery as offices and works for the manufacture of thermo-couples. The firm later removed to the one time Weslian School. August 1990 the building remained unoccupied.
The site is now occupied by the Colne Medical Centre in a new building.
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