Burnley Empire Theartre

Built / Converted
1894

Dates of use
1982 - 1985: Bingo
1894 - 1938: Theatre
1938 - 1982: Cinema


Bingo moved out of the theatre in 1995, and it was statutory listed Grade II in February 1996. By 1997 the disused upper level already showed signs of fairly extensive water penetration. The more immediate risk seemed, however, to be that it would be sold for some highly profitable non-theatre activity, removing a splendid building from any prospect of a return to its designed use. There was much local pressure to reopen the theatre and the local authority and The Theatres Trust contributed to the cost of a feasibility study. However, the theatre remained empty and unused. There are now serious fears of possible demolition as a result of neglect. The theatre's frontage is somewhat obscured by an adjacent development and it is only the rear of the auditorium which has a public face. This is narrow and rendered, with evidence of original mouldings and panels. Its main entrance is on St James’s Street, a shopping street. A long and narrow entrance and foyer lead to the auditorium. The frontage is clad in sheet panelling. The auditorium is elaborately detailed with robust and richly formed plasterwork in the Classical style. As reconstructed by Crewe in 1911, it has two slightly curved wide and deep balconies, terminating in superimposed stage boxes framed between massive Corinthian columns supporting a deep cornice. Segmental-arched proscenium, with richly decorated spandrels and heraldic cartouche. Side walls feature plaster panels, pilasters and drops. Flat, panelled ceiling with circular centre panel and central sun burner. Restrained heraldic and Greek plasterwork on balcony and box fronts. Three boxes and the upper balcony have been partitioned off. If the theatre was to be restored to use, the narrow stage would need to be extended and front of house would need improvement. In May 2013, the council considered the building to be dangerous, requiring demolition and works to ensure safety.

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