Skip to main content

New Empire Theatre


Built as a theatre on the site of the Public Hall, which had become the Alexandra Theatre in 1891, and which was destroyed by fire in 1896. The new theatre had a capacity of 2000 which included 1000 in the gallery and 500 in the pit. The interior was described as ‘semi-circular’ with dress and upper circles and six stage boxes, all decorated in light blue, salmon pink and gold with plum coloured upholstery. The act drop represented ‘the Pier Approach and Hill as it will be when the Pier Hill Scheme shall have been carried out’. In 1920, it was converted to the Rivoli cinema. This was two tier with boxes, but made no use of the excavated area formerly used for understage, orchestra pit, stalls etc. Any possible stage use disappeared with further modernisation and twinning in 1962. The only parts of the original building, apart from external walls and exits, are stairs to stalls and pit stalls and original signs, and possibly some other areas at the lowest level, under the 1920 cinema, now a basement area. In 1998 the cinema closed and stood empty. At the end of the year, it was acquired for use by two local amateur theatre groups, one in the former stalls area, and one in the balcony area. Films were screened occasionally. This arrangement came to an end in 2008 and the theatre went dark. The building was subsequently put up for sale. An arson attack in July 2015 resulted in the roof collapsing and the building suffering extensive damage. The first floor auditorium was largely destroyed, including the upper circle which was part of the original theatre. The building was demolished in 2017.

Built / Converted
Dates of use
Current state
Current use
22 Alexandra Street, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 1BU, England
Further details
Other names
Empire , Alexandra Theatre , Rivoli , ABC , Cannon
  • 1891 Design/Construction: as a public hall
    - Architect
  • 1891 Alteration: converted to theatre
    - Architect
  • 1896 Alteration: new theatre on site of burnt-down public hall
    W J Wood with W Hancock
    - Architect
  • 1896 Design/Construction:
    W Hancock
    - Consultant
    consulting architect
  • 1896 Owner/Management: Fred Marlow, proprietor
  • 1920 Alteration: converted to cinema
    Adams & George Coles
    - Architect
  • 1920 Owner/Management: Sidney Bacon, owner
  • 1935 Owner/Management: Union
  • 1962 Alteration: modernised
    ABC house architect
    - Architect
  • 1962 Owner/Management: Associated British Cinemas (ABC)
  • 1980 Alteration: twinned
    - Architect
  • 1998 - 2008 Owner/Management: New Empire Theatre Company, lessee
  • 1998 - 2008 Owner/Management: Robertson family, managers
  • 1998 - 2015 Owner/Management: Shea Properties
  • 2017 Demolition: demolition for commercial redevelopment
  • Capacity
    1908: 1800
    1920: 1555
    1962: 1226
    1980: 680 & 298
  • Listing
    Not listed
Stage type
Building dimensions: -
Stage dimensions: d: 35ft wSL: 32.5ft SR: 32.5ft
Proscenium width: 25ft
Height to grid: -
Inside proscenium: -
Orchestra pit: -