11 thoughts on “Empire Theatre, Stockton

  1. Does anyone remember the Castle Coffee Bar which was on the ground floor under the Empire, and I believe there was a billiard hall above that. I spent many happy hours drinking ‘iffy’ coffee in there, making it last ages until the billiard hall emptied above and eyeing the lads who came down.


    • If you look closely at the picture there appears to be a cafe to the left of the
      billiard hall entrance.I spent many hours playing snooker badly in the 1950’s
      with my mates


  2. The last film to be shown at the Empire was ironically “The Last Command” starring Stirling Hayden and Ernest Borgnine about the battle for the Alamo.


  3. I loved the Empire Cinema, it was so exciting for me to get the ‘O’ bus from Mandale Road, Thornaby to the High Street, Stockton, on alighting from it, I literally raced across the road to get inside the Empire. It cost 9d. There was someone stood at the entrance door who took your ticket and ripped it in half, then you were shown down the darkened aisles to a seat by an usherette shining a torch and, unknown to me, I watched some great classic movies being shown, I recall: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Angels with Dirty Faces, Spencer Tracy in Boys Town, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, The Best Years of Our Lives, Double Indemnity, Citizen Kane, and of course James Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, we saw Mildred Pierce making a success of her beachside cafe, then days later ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. Watching these films was an education in itself. For me The City of New York was Harlem and tough guys. Any film with Humphrey Bogart as the star got my 9d. Films like “I was a Prisoner on a Chain Gang” had us all queuing outside to get in. It never occurred to me that in real life no one ever said “You Dirty Rat”, or normal people did not have faces like Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney, Jack Elam, and Alan Ladd, these guys mattered, these guys would lend you their last dime, they built railroads, rode horses and fired guns, it was outside with the 1000 yard walk back to Thornaby that was not real, Thornaby was grey, cold, rainy and had gaslights, whilst the Sun always shone bright inside the Empire, It was my Empire, my world to escape to, and it still is. I loved the Old Empire and Stockton High Street was never the same after it was demolished.


  4. My father took me to the Empire in the early Fifties, to see Victor Mature in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah. We went ‘upstairs’. I remember being scared at the steepness of the stairs as we found our seats in the circle, in the dark, then even more frightened when Samson brought the Temple down around his ears at the climax of the film. As I was little more than a toddler, I don’t think I had yet learned the difference between real life and what happened on the silver screen.


  5. What is most noticeable is that there is no litter to be seen in that photograph. Those were the days prior to the innumerous fast food outlets and the “throw away” society. Stockton was a wonderful town, with great people, back then.


  6. The last two films I remember are The Bridge over the River Kwai and High Society. These were released in 1956 but I think it was a couple of years later before they were shown at the Empire.


    • Just different, nothing more, from a different era that suited the High Street at that time. I do like them and their oldie worldie elegance, do they have any like that at Beamish I wonder? But I equally like the current bold design, fit for purpose and they add to the mix of old and contemporary.


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