Press release: SAVE publishes new photos of 1927 West End cinema interiors under threat from demolition

The building's elegant front on Haymarket (left) and the main auditorium (right). Photos by Ian Grundy.

6 September 2018
SAVE Britain’s Heritage is delighted to present a photographic survey of the Empire Cinema on Haymarket, the fantastic 1920s entertainment palace. In June 2018, we commissioned professional photographer Ian Grundy to highlight the special significance of this unique cinema, currently under threat from demolition plans. See all of the pictures here.

The Crown Estate which owns the cinema, has submitted an application for a certificate of immunity from listing - seeking to pave the way for major redevelopment proposals. SAVE and the Cinema Theatre Association are campaigning to save the cinema and support designation of the historic building.

Designed by the highly respected cinema architects Verity and  Beverley, The Carlton (now Empire) was built as both a cinema and a theatre, and so designed to be flexible. It recently hosted a theatre production of Brief Encounter and is now back in use as a cinema. This historic building should be protected and celebrated. With imagination and determination it could be a world class West End entertainment venue, continuing a long-running tradition of entertainment in this part of London. A decision by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, on whether or not the building will be listed is due imminently.

The grand foyer in neoclassical style leads up to the upstairs’ bar, the splendid main auditorium with its impressive Renaissance palazzo-style ceiling and many other exquisite features, for example the elegant 1920s panelling of the former stalls and a hidden bar in the basement.  

The Empire – or Carlton Cinema as it was originally called – was built in 1927 for Paramount Pictures and quickly became one of London’s most prestigious movie theatres. Many London and even world premieres were held here. Richard Burton, Charlie Chaplin, Marlon Brando, HM The Queen, they all brought glamour and stardom to the cinema on Haymarket. Sadly, it is the only cinema of its kind today since all the other cinema palaces have either been demolished or ruined by later alterations.

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE, says: “The new images clearly demonstrate what an exquisite building the Empire is. It has been built with great craftsmanship. Such quality is rare today, and we should cherish and celebrate the beauty of such buildings.”  

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE, says: "The images show that the Empire is a wonderful building – its interiors are unique and one would like to see the cinema used again for lavish world premieres and glamorous receptions.

As well as contemporary images, the SAVE brochure, entitled 'Sleeping Beauty' also includes a history of the cinema and historic images. We to would like to make the beauty of this historic cinema accessible to everyone and celebrate its timeless elegance.
Note to Editors
1. For additional images and information please contact SAVE on 0207 253 3500 or by email 
2. The Secretary of State, Jeremey Wright, is currently assessing the application for a Certificate of Immunity from listing from the owner, The Crown Estate. COIs are valid for 5 years during which time no other listing applications for the site will be considered.
3. In a letter published on 26 June 2018 in The Times, five national heritage organisations backed our appeal to The Crown Estate to rethink its plans.
4. All contemporary photos of the interiors in the brochure are copyright by Ian Grundy.
5. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.