This Spot, now the Shoulder of Mutton pub, was once home to the Empress Cinema. The cinema was purpose built in 1925 and modernised in 1938 with an extended auditorium and an Art Deco facade by the noted cinema architect Joseph Gomersall of Drury & Gomersall, Manchester, to maintain its attraction and support from the public.
The cinema was ran by Mr. Eldred Fletcher. acting as the projectionist and general manager. while his wife Eva was in charge of the front of house. In the early days of the cinema a lady was employed to accompany the silent films on a piano. For a short time she was joined by a violinist, but he complained that she ate while playing and scratched her back.
Programmes were changed three times a week with performances at 6:45pm and 9:00pm. Shows started with local adverts including Walkers Ice Cream – sold in the cinema from 3¼inch glass slides. This would be followed by “Gaumont British News” and two or three short films including Disney cartoons, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, finally followed by the main feature film.
During the war and immediately after the business flourished. There were queues right up the road, and children from the Children’s Home and everyone from the Workhouse (later The Elms) has free seats.
Records were played for half an hour before the films started, and patrons used to say they had had their moneys worth before they saw any films.
Stall seats were sold at 1/9d and were upholstered in deep blue with the front three rows being allocated for children. Circle seats were sold at 2/6d were located on broad shallow steps instead of the general rake and were in deep pinkish red and were considered the best seats. Payment of one entry also came with one free Beech-nut chewing gum for each child, which was thought to keep them quiet. The screen curtains were pale grey and illuminated by one red and one green light on either side.
The Empress Cinema continued trading well after the war and into the 1950’s before the arrival of television in the area. Unfortunately no cinemascope was ever installed in the building as it was too small to accommodate, more up-to-date films were booked especially for weekends however competition from television was inevitable.
The Cinema was closed in 1961 with after its last film featuring John Mills in “Swiss Family Robinson”. Finally being used as the home of a bingo club until 1971 when it was demolished and The Shoulder of Mutton pub was built.
Green, S. and Roe, K 2012. Empress Cinema. Cinematreasures.org
Winfield, S.J 2001. The Story of the Empress Cinema and Moving Picture Shows in Chapel-en-le-Frith. Stamford: Fuchsia print.