Filming for the Empire of Light movie in Margate wraps up today (May 26) after several months of shoots in the town – and has brought an estimated £4million into the Thanet economy.
The Empire of Light teams started to arrive in Margate in November last year and say that since then the production will have contributed the £4million through everything from accommodation and food costs to items and services bought locally.
This includes accommodation from November to June in venues including Sands Hotel, crew subsistence allowances spent in the area, location fees, permits, parking, venue hire, local crew, security, council services, street lighting and office space rental for many of the production departments.
The production teams have also bought locally, including props from vintage and second-hand shops plus food used for scenes in the film. The lighting department bought consumables, cabling and bulbs from local businesses and the construction teams also purchased items locally.
Many residents responded to the call for movie extras and 1300 people of all ages were cast as background artists throughout the shoot. The locations team liaised with the local film offices and many residents keen to further their careers in the film industry became part of the crew as location trainees and marshals. Costume, hair and make-up, assistant directors and the set decorating department engaged locals to work as part of their teams.
Thanet businesses and council services have been used by the production, including sign writers, graffiti removal specialists, locksmiths, an electrical and plumbing company, Thanet council street lighting technicians, TDC Parking Services, laundry service, cleaning companies, fire service and local health and safety crew, water safety support and drinking water suppliers. Kent based companies and organisations used also included marquee hire, and heating companies, KCC Highways and KCC Street Lighting technicians.
Production members also worked with organisations and charities including People Dem Collective, A Better Arlington, Cliftonville Community Centre, Rise Up Clean Up and residents’ associations in various areas of Margate.
The team have also given career talks at schools and colleges including The University of Creative Arts in Canterbury, Hartsdown Academy and Holy Trinity and St Johns Primary School.
Empire of Light director and writer Sam Mendes said: “We wrap filming on Empire of Light today after an amazing 56 days shooting in Margate and along the Kent and Sussex coastline.
“I know we have brought some disruption, but we could not have asked for a better location than Margate and Dreamland to shoot this film. I want to say a huge thank-you to everyone in Margate for their patience, hosting us during prep and production and welcoming all our cast and crew into your community.”
Members of the production team will still be in Margate in June and July as they finish up production.
Empire of Light stars Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth. The 1980s-set love story 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 was 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.
The production team also installed festoon lights along the seafront and into the Old Town. In response to public requests Neal Street Productions made a formal offer to gift the lights to the town of Margate, once they reached the end of filming.
However, Thanet council says issues with the lights mean they will not be staying in place.
Council officers, in consultation with the Kent County Council Highways team, conducted an investigation into the likely running costs, ongoing energy and maintenance costs and fees for testing and licensing that would be incurred, should the lights be taken on by Thanet District Council.
A Thanet council statement says: “During the course of the investigation, we were informed by Neal Street Productions that they were experiencing ongoing technical issues with the lights, which had been installed as all-weather equipment, but which were in fact suffering from water ingress during wet weather due to a manufacturing fault.
“On this basis, these lights are not considered to be suitably resilient for long term use in the seafront location, and would not withstand the ongoing impact of the weather that they would inevitably be subjected to.
“In addition to concerns over the resilience of the lights to wind and rain, the existing lights do not have controls installed to allow them to be timer activated, and cannot easily be dimmed. Currently, the lights are too bright to pass a road safety assessment and add to light pollution in the area, with potential impacts on the environment and biodiversity.
“Now that filming is drawing to a close, Neal Street will be starting to remove the lights on Friday 27 May. While the lights were a positive addition to the Margate streetscene, we confirm that having fully considered the factors already listed, we have taken the difficult decision to decline the offer.
“We understand that the Margate Charter Trustees have contacted the Empire of Light production team to ascertain if any part of the infrastructure could remain, to facilitate the installation of more suitable and robust replacement lights.”
The film will be released by Searchlight Pictures.