Independent cinema to close

ONE of the region's few remaining independent cinemas is to close following the directors' application for compulsory liquidation.Declining audiences and mounting operating costs have prompted the move at the Halstead Empire, bringing its 90-year-history to an end.

By Sharon Asplin

ONE of the region's few remaining independent cinemas is to close following the directors' application for compulsory liquidation.

Declining audiences and mounting operating costs have prompted the move at the Halstead Empire, bringing its 90-year-history to an end.

The cinema has suffered from funding crises in the past but has always managed to keep operating. Now, the trust decided to make the closure decision now in a bid to limit future losses.


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David Clover, chairman of The Empire Theatre Limited, said: “The board, with regret, following professional advice, due to financial difficulties, have decided that, The Empire Theatre Ltd will be put into liquidation on Friday, July 29.

“The Empire Trust and board wish to thank the regular patrons, all staff past and present, and both Halstead Town Council and Braintree District Council for the many years of support given to The Empire.”

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Braintree District Council leader Graham Butland said: “Over the years, the council has been very supportive and has encouraged the Empire to find new ways to promote itself to an increasingly demanding audience.

“As the leaseholder, the council has invested in improvements to the building, provided grants and relief on business rates for many years. People have told us that the council's priorities should be safe and clean streets and a better place to live, work and play and we must focus council tax money on these priorities.

“We are always ready to listen to proposals which will encourage a thriving cultural life throughout the district but, in the end, you need a continuous stream of regular and new customers and without them, there's no point in continuing.”

The council insisted new arrangements regarding annual grants which come into effect next year had no bearing on the current financial situation. It has handed over decision-making about grants to a group of councillors and community representatives.

Braintree District Council has worked with Halstead Town Council since 1979 to enable the Butler Road cinema to operate as a trust and in the past 12 years has contributed more than £200,000 in the form of cash grant, rent and 100% rate relief and £30,000 capital investment.

Halstead Town Council has supported The Empire via a peppercorn rent and other grants.

Built in 1915, the cinema originally showed silent films and then theatrical performances. It closed during the 1970s but re-opened in 1978.

The last performance at the Empire - a live music show with DJ Dave Cash on Thursday -will go ahead as planned.

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