Filming for the Sam Mendes movie in Margate is drawing to a conclusion – meaning traffic controls are now only in place on Friday (20 May) between 7pm and midnight on Marine Terrace, according to Thanet council.
Empire of Light started prepping and then filming in the town at the end of February and crew are expected to remain in town until May 26 for further filming, although it is understood there will be no further road closures.
Empire of Light stars Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth.The 1980s-set love story set in the 1980s also stars Toby Jones, Tom Brooke, Hannah Onslow, Tanya Moodie and Crystal Clarke.
Locations used included Margate’s main seafront road, the beach, the Old Town, Cliftonville, and Darcy’s Café.
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.
The production has included firework displays, a Chariots of Fire film ‘premiere,’ vintage cars and fake snow and rain as well as a mass scene with mods and skinheads.
Director 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. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, who won an Oscar for best cinematography at the Academy Awards for his work on 1917, has also involved.
The film is produced by Academy Award nominee Pippa Harris (1917, Call The Midwife, Penny Dreadful) and Mendes (1917, Skyfall and American Beauty) under their Neal Street Productions.
It will be released by Searchlight Pictures.
During the cast and crew’s time in Margate, isle photographers have captured scenes throughout the filming.
The production company has also gifted Thanet council the festoon lights strung along the seafront and up to the Old Town although details of how they will be operated and maintained are still to be worked out.
Filming also brought a positive impact to the isle, despite road closure inconvenience, with hundreds of local people and businesses getting involved to support the production and, at a normally a quiet time of year for the hospitality industry, restaurants and accommodations bustling with crew and cast. Significant, undisclosed, payment was also made to Thanet council for use of the area for the filming.
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 previously 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.
“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.”