Lumiere team get set for filming in Margate and Cliftonville and predict economic and tourism boost for isle

Dreamland becomes the Empire Photo Frank Leppard

Filming for Sam Mendes movie Lumiere (Empire of Light) will begin in Margate on February 28 and run through to May 21.

The site known as ‘Godden’s Gap’ on Margate seafront has been transformed with the temporary build of an Art Deco style cinema to be used for the love story starring star award-winning The Crown actress Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward, of Top Boy fame, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie and Crystal Clarke. The film will be set in the 1980s.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

Dreamland’s neon sign on the fin of the Grade II* listed cinema has been replaced with Empire Cinema signs and the 20,000ft set at Godden’s Gap contains a replica of Dreamland’s old cinema, including the staircase and chandeliers, with a ticket booth outside.

Photo John Horton

Margate seafront has also had festoon lights installed going up to the Old Town.

Mr Mendes is known for works including  James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre and the war film 1917 as well as numerous West End stage shows. He has written Empire of Light, making it his first original solo screenplay. He will also direct and produce with Pippa Harris of Neal Street. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who won an Oscar for best cinematography at the Academy Awards for his work on 1917, is also involved.

Director Sam Mendes will be filming in Thanet Photo Keith Morris / Hay Ffotos / Alamy Stock Photo

Some 1,600 people responded to a call from casting company Two 10 Casting to be extras in the film with 800 of those being successful.

The Lumiere location team has been liaising with schools, traders and other organisations ahead of the production to try and keep disruption to a minimum.

Photo John Horton

The team say direct benefits will include employment for set creation work but also income to restaurants, shops and local businesses while indirect benefits will include an expected boost to tourism.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

They said: “After a long search around the South coast of England, our producers and director chose Margate as the central location for this film. The town has a wealth of wonderful locations, which include the cinematic seafront and iconic Dreamland buildings. In addition, we have scenes set within the heritage streets in the Old Town, and inside local shops and cafes.

“Our project is set in the 1980s, which creates a number of challenges for us in camera, especially for all our exterior scenes. We are working very closely with the Highways team and the Kent Film Office in proposing a limited number of road closures, and a number of days where we hope to implement intermittent traffic control on various roads within the town.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

“As well as intermittent traffic holds around the filming locations we would also look to ask pedestrians to hold for short periods of time while we are filming. These will only  last a maximum of a couple of minutes at a time as we want to be as little of an inconvenience to daily life as possible.”

The cinema set of Sam Mendes movie Lumiere Photo John Horton

The film industry is a valuable source of income for Thanet. In 2020/21 Thanet council estimates the value was in excess of £770,000.

Productions on the isle are wide-ranging and include photoshoots for magazines, music videos for a whole range of musicians, television dramas, comedy programmes, short films and feature films.

These have included films Lady in the Van with Dame Maggie Smith and King of Thieves with Sir Michael Caine as well as TV series Eastenders, Top Boy, The Tunnel, The Larkins and Killing Eve.

A Lumiere production spokesperson said: “Having a film come to an area has a direct and indirect economic benefit to the local economy. During production, the immediate direct economic benefits include the crew staying in local accommodation, eating out in local establishments, hiring local labour, sourcing local fresh produce, using local equipment, vehicles, trades, materials, all to create the temporary sets required.

Photo John Cripps

“The indirect benefit is often discrete and not often considered, but the British Film Commission has data showing the indirect effects are often in the form of tourism. Attractions, hotels and restaurants experience higher income and employment on account of tourism visits, stimulated by the desire to visit filming locations or settings once a film has been released to a general audience. Not only in the UK but potentially worldwide.

“Our primary focus is not only achieving a successful shoot, but leaving a positive ‘tourism’ legacy for the town, for years to come.”

Photo Roy Foord

As part of the shoot there will be a number of road closures, some intermittent traffic holds and the team may ask pedestrians to hold for short periods of time while they are filming. The team is also expected to film inside the Old Town Hall on March 1-2.


Friday 4th MarchFort Paragon Marine Terrace Marine Drive 

From 1600 – 2100

From 2130 – 0400

From 2130 – 0100 (not concurrently with Marine Terrace)

Tuesday 15th MarchHall by the Sea RoadFrom 0700 – 1800
Monday 21st MarchAlbert Terrace Marine DriveFrom 0700 – 1900

From 1000 – 1900

Tuesday 22nd MarchMarket StreetFrom 1800 – 0300
Thursday 24th MarchHall by the Sea RoadFrom 1400 – 0600
Friday 25th MarchHall by the Sea RoadFrom 1400 – 0600
Wednesday 30th MarchMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Thursday 31st MarchMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Friday 1st AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Monday 4th AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Tuesday 5th AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Monday 25th AprilFort Paragon Athelstan RoadFrom 0800 – 1700

From 1500 – 1900

Wednesday 27th AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Thursday 28th AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Friday 29th AprilMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430
Friday 6th MayKing Street

Cliff Terrace

From 0800 – 0230

From 2300 – 0530

Monday 16th MayMarine DriveFrom 1100 – 2100
Wednesday 18th MayMarine TerraceFrom 0930 – 1430

As a contingency, the location team has applied for 2 additional weather back up dates for Marine Terrace on May 19-20..


    • I believe TDC are paid about £750k. But I reckon that’s too cheap and a percentage of profits would be a good additional element.

        • What’s with the preoccupation with some comments about how much TDC did or didn’t receive when you can’t put a price on the positive publicity that this film will give Margate on its release ,which let’s not forget because of the calibre of top name Hollywood film director ,cast and cinephotographer , will be worldwide .!
          Do you think Brighton or Bournemouth would be moaning like some people here in Thanet ?
          Quite to the contrary ,they’d embrace the film company filming In their city / town .
          The impression that I’m getting so far is that this is a British feel good film , something that we are good at making and should embrace instead of stupid cynical comments from the same negative boring regular “contributors”
          They know who they are !

  1. Please can the temporary structure remain until the hotel is built (if ever). Far better than looking at a derelict site and a positive attraction for the area.

  2. Sounds great, be nice to see the transformation, it’s been neglected for far too long. The 1st thing you see when you visit is the sea front.

  3. They could have just used the Dreamland cinema frontage that is already there instead of having a bottom part in Godden’s Gap and the top part with the Empire tower.
    Anyway can the festoon lighting stay afterwards as all this has made a big improvement to the seafront in just a couple of weeks where TDC has failed in decades? I suppose the light bulbs would not be replaced as TDC do little maintenance for the town. They could use LED bulbs though which last a lot longer outdoors.

    • The festoon lights that they have installed are LED type, but are the type that look like they are filament lamps. It would be nice if they could be left as a gift to the town.

    • They are using the old cinema for some filming but they have built sets for other scenes in the new structure.

  4. Absolutely fantastic .everything looks amazing .its great for us local people as it puts margate on the map .we deserve recognition .

    • Why the negativity ? Why not embrace that a top film is being made in Margate by a top British Hollywood producer in Sam Mendes who has a great track record for making excellent movies , and this film has a top cast including Olivia Colman and Colin Firth ..
      You can’t buy the publicity for Margate that this film will attract on its release .
      I think as a “ Thank you “ to the people of Margate that it would be great if maybe Sam Mendes / Roger Deakin ( Cinephotographer) /.Olivia Colman / Colin Firth ,if any of them came along for a special presentation ( Q&A) on the film at the nearby Carlton cinema in Westgate .. How great would that be !
      Maybe it also could raise monies for a local charity ?

      Anyway …. I for one are.really interested in this movie and look forward to seeing it on its release next year

  5. So exciting. I agree that the festoon lighting is just what we need. It makes me remember getting of the coach from London in the Summer; and arriving by the sea to see the lights shining bright and my two year old sons cries of “Look Mummy Balloons” because of the bright colours. Margate is the Place!

    So excited to have the Film being shot here. So looking forward to seeing it! Maybe dome of ye cast will want to visit a Seaside Fortune Teller! I foretell good Fortune for Lumiere Empire of Light. Kooshti Bok! Kooshti Sante! Good luck and Good Health! Miranda

    • Hi it would be lovely to keep The light as they are LED which is low energy which means less electricity to pay . Plus with the money they are getting for all this it must be quite a substantial amount and I don’t think it’s a lot to ask to keep them up especially as all the wires have been connected . And the lights would attract more people down here at Margate especially after they see the film , come on district Council pull your finger out

  6. Here here RockStar perfectly put ….. this is such an exciting event for the folks of Margate.

    There should be zero negativity this is amazing news.

  7. Incidentally, a lot of the back room staff-wardrobe, fittings, etc – are staying here for around 3 months and for weeks at a time for others. All money for the town off season!!

  8. Echo the call for the seafront lights to remain after filming has been completed … LED lamps will cost peanuts to run and improve the site over the summer months.

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