Empire of Light filming in Margate drawing to a close

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman Photo Roberto Fabiani

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.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

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.

Photo Louis McLaren

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.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

Photo Louis McLaren

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.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

It will be released by Searchlight Pictures.

During the cast and crew’s time in Margate, isle photographers have captured scenes throughout the filming.

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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.

Photo Louis McLaren

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.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

Photo Frank Leppard

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.

Photo Louis McLaren

“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.

Photo Roberto Fabiani

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


    • I’ve always known it as Godden’s Gap but that’s the first time I’ve seen the local media use that term!

  1. What a huge bonus the film and crew have bought to Margate. They have given work to locals, the extras were treated very well with good pay. Airbnb’s have been booked solid for months. They will be missed lovely people. Thank you for the lights 😊🙏

    • That’s telling you Peter !
      Nice to see a positive comment about this film being made here instead of “the usual suspects” on here being negative about it .

  2. I note in the article it states TDC earned £770 000 in 2020/ 21from filming . Did TDC earn anything from this film ? Where is this info available other than through an FOI ?
    Or were the hedge fund owners of Dreamland the beneficiary. how will Thanet residents benefit ?
    A donation of festoon lights to the town really ! Are you having a laugh. No wonder it’s lights out for Homer at last , on her way out, hopefully .
    Whilst it’s great to see the the parade livened up one can not help wonder about the environmental deficit involved in many aspects of this production not least the environmentally polluting fireworks extravaganza, however fantastic the scene(s).
    The indirect discrete benefits of hosting the film are just that discrete and undefinable. However a boost for the town as some one stated , hopefully.

  3. Peter, Had it been a film about naturist you would have been fist in the Q. Mind-you with me behind you.

  4. Roman 1234

    “not least the environmentally polluting fireworks extravaganza,”

    So many people in thanet want people to stop having anything that takes away the bored of work sleep work sleep etc !

    Stop using your car for holidays or travelling to gigs or sporting events, stop fireworks etc. Just become a minion and just work till you die. Not enjoy your life.

    Well boll***s to that I have one life and it anti going to be boring !!

  5. has been lovely to see activity in Margate and a few old memories with the vintage dress and motor cars etc

  6. Once again the usual suspects are putting the town and it’s businesses and locals down they don’t say any comments about Broadstairs or Ramsgate Alrough they have there problems look around and see buildings finally being sorted out by owners a lot of the Deriliction that was around has nearly gone signs of revival and people investing in the town. It is time for the usual suspects to get a life it was more than likely they were some of the suspects who stopped redevelopment of the still eyesore Arlington square shopping centre.

  7. Good riddence and goodbye. We won’t be watching the film. Its caused chaos and has made local businesses fold. These people think they are Gods. Empire of Big heads.

  8. Maryp, name one business that has closed directly due to this film being made ,come on name one,or all that have closed

    • Good call-out Raymond I’m sick of people like maryp leaving negative post on here with their rants which have no facts or hard evidence to back them up.
      Let’s see what she comes back with ?

      I hope that Sam Mendes and his film production team realise that she’s doesn’t represent everyone in Thanet

    • IF any local businesses have closed then it would be hard to prove the one reason, no more than it is possible to prove that businesses have closed due to online shopping, brexit, covid, etc.

      Just playing Devil’s Advocate! But I too would be curious to know of any that make this claim.

  9. I think enough is enough! Make this the LAST EVER film made in thanet .. it’s a nusance and should never have happened! BAN ALL FILMS FROM THANET NOW !!!!

  10. What will TDC do with the money they got for allowing filming ? free tickets for all residents, why do the people who were inconvenienced least benefit the most.

    • Think about it , it won’t be practical for all in Thanet to be given free seats to watch the film at the 3 local cinemas .
      You would need the agreement of the private owners of the 3 cinemas to agree to such a scheme plus there wouldn’t be enough seating to accommodate the huge numbers of Thanet residents that potentially want to take advantage of such an offer . ( Yes I know not everyone would be interested in seeing the film )
      Please don’t get me wrong , I think the idea in theory for free tickets seems good but I can’t see it happening .
      I do though think for publicity / PR reasons that the film production company could do a premiere at say Carlton Cinema with say actress Olivia Colman ,Film director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins in attendance and maybe do a Q&A afterwards .
      Maybe people could apply in a lottery to win a ticket to the limited ticket availability of this free showing of the film at this possible local premiere ?

      • The tickets for this film will be WEST END LONDON prices .. I won’t be able to afford them due to the cost of living crisis .. I can’t afford my bills let alone worry about some stupid film ….

  11. Why would tickets for this film be West End London prices???? When showing at local cinemas, I expect the tickets will be same price as any other film being shown.

    I really don’t understand the reasoning of so many comments people make.

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