Empire Cinemas

16, including 9 sold, 5 closed and 2 closed and re-opened

The Ward Anderson Group was formed in 1948 by Kevin Anderson and Leo Ward. They purchased their first cinema in Lucan, Co. Dublin in 1955 and controlled more than half of all cinema screens in Ireland, through a series of private companies and trusts, until a falling out between the two families. The dispute started in 1997 with a row over the development of a new cinema in Dun Laoghaire and was only settled, out of court, in January 2013. The business assets were divided up, with the Ward family, now led by Paul Ward, retaining the Irish Multiplex Cinemas (IMC) group (qv) and the Anderson family, led by Paul Anderson, retaining the Omniplex Holdings group (qv). The Anderson family moved into the rest of the UK in October 2005 when, through Cinema Holdings Ltd, they purchased, for €80m (c£52m), 11 former UCI and Odeon cinemas (including 7 multiplexes) that had to be divested by Terra Firma. Then, in early 2006, through Cinema Holdings 2 Ltd, they purchased, for €40m (c£26m), 6 former UGC and Cineworld cinemas (including 5 multiplexes) that had to be divested by Blackstone. This new British circuit, led by led Thomas Anderson, with Justin Ribbons as CEO, was named Empire after the flagship cinema in Leicester Square that was acquired as part of the UCI package. On 28 July 2016 Empire sold five cinemas to Cineworld for £94m. These were two non-multiplexes, what had been the Empire flagship in Leicester Square and their four-screen cinema at Bromley, and three multiplexes, at Basildon, Hemel Hempstead and Poole. (The deal also included the sale of the Cineworld Haymarket to Empire.) On 16 June 2017 the Empire at Newcastle on Tyne was sold to Cineworld.

On 7 July 2023 the Empire circuit went into administration. In a press release, Chief Executive Officer Justin Ribbons said “As a consequence of [the closures during] COVID-19, [the company] was left with a high fixed cost base and no income. Cinema attendance levels have not yet returned to pre-COVID-19 levels and the operating environment remains extremely challenging…we firmly believe this process can be a platform to restructure the business and preserve as many of our cinemas and the maximum number of jobs as possible”. BDO were appointed as administrators. On 9 July, without prior warning, the cinemas at Bishop’s Stortford, Catterick Garrison, Sunderland, Swindon, Walthamstow and Wigan were closed.

In December 2023, the still-open multiplexes at Birmingham (Rubery), Clydebank, High Wycombe, Ipswich and Sutton were acquired by Omniplex.

On 8 December 2023, the closed cinema at Swindon was re-opened by Vue.

ex-UCI

Clydebank [10] [October 2005]; Sold to Omniplex
Poole [10, plus 6 Studios opened 28 July 2011] [October 2005] Sold to Cineworld
Sutton 14:83 as UCI [6] [October 2005] Closed June 2017: Re-opened after complete re-build 13 February 2018 [10]; Sold to Omniplex
Basildon [12, plus 6 Studios] [October 2005] Sold to Cineworld

ex-thefilmworks

High Wycombe [6, later 8] [October 2005]; Sold to Omniplex

ex-Odeon

Hemel Hempstead [8] [October 2005] In October 2015 the original screens were demolished and replaced by 9 new screens on the original site and 5 new screens, plus IMAX and IMPACT screens, on adjoining land = [16] Sold to Cineworld
Newcastle on Tyne [12, plus 4 Studios opened 9 December 2011] [October 2005] Sold to Cineworld

ex-Virgin

Wigan [11] [March 2006]; Closed 9 July 2023
Birmingham (Rubery) [13] [March 2006], Sold to Omniplex

ex-Cineworld

Swindon (Greenbridge Leisure Park) [12] [March 2006]; Closed 9 July 2023; re-opened 8 December 2023 by Vue
Bishop’s Stortford [6] [March 2006]; Closed 9 July 2023
Sunderland [12] [March 2006]; Closed 9 July 2023; re-opened 10 May 2024 by Omniplex
Slough [10] [March 2006; Closed 8 December 2022

Opened as EMPIRE

Walthamstow [9] 20 November 2014; Closed 9 July 2023
Catterick Garrison [7] 23 October 2015; Closed 9 July 2023
Ipswich [14] 31 March 2017; Sold to Omniplex