Trailer released for Sam Mendes movie Empire of Light, shot in Margate

Micheal Ward and Olivia Colman Photo Roberto Fabiani

The trailer for movie Empire of Light – filmed in Margate between the end of February and end of May this year – has been released.

The film, a love story based in the 1980s, will have its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival on September 8-18.

The European premiere will be at the BFI London Film Festival from October 5-16 and the film is due to be released in the UK via Searchlight on January 13 2023.

It was previously revealed that the US release will be on December 9 this year.

The Empire of Light teams started to arrive in Margate in November last year and the production contributed some £4million to the Thanet economy through everything from accommodation and food costs to items and services bought locally.

Sam Mendes and Roger Deakin Photo Louis McLaren

Production teams also bought locally, including props from vintage and second-hand shops plus food used for scenes in the film.

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Many residents responded to the call for movie extras and 1300 people of all ages were cast as background artists throughout the shoot.

Empire of Light filming with Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward Photo Roberto Fabiani

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.

Olivia Colman on set Photo Steven Collis

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’ contained a replica of Dreamland’s old cinema, including the staircase and chandeliers, with a ticket booth outside.

Photo Louis McLaren

The Searchlight Pictures production 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.

Eddie Kemsley, CEO Dreamland Margate, said: ‘The teaser trailer is fantastic! We were all so thrilled that Sam Mendes, Neal Street Productions and Searchlight Pictures chose our great town and of course, our beautiful old cinema building at Dreamland, to play such a central role.  We can’t wait until we can see the film when it is released in the UK.

Empire of Light fireworks Photo Louis Mclaren

“It’s a testament to Margate and the wider county of Kent that we can attract such high calibre productions, which not only significantly contribute to the economy, but also help to highlight British gems such as Dreamland to a worldwide audience.”

Empire of Light

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        • On the face of it and none of us having seen this film yet , that does look like either an glaring error or a bit of artistic license , which does happen in films and tv series .
          Empire of Light is described as being set in 1980 against when Chariots of Fire hadn’t been released yet until March 1981 .
          I believe there is a Xmas scene in this film so maybe the period extends into early 1981 when Chariots was released
          At the end of the day none of this really matters as director Sam Mendes was trying to get across the “golden period of cinema “ and set this the story of a young woman ( Olivia Colman) working in a cinema in Margate having a relationship with a man of ethnic background which would have been very difficult in 1980 the period the film is set .
          All will become clear when the film is released on the UK release date 13 January .2023 .

          • Even biographical movies are often little more than semi-fictional: Back in 1989, I was a paid extra in the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic ‘Great Balls of Fire!’, starring Dennis Quaid and Wynona Ryder. I was an extra in a concert scene, supposedly set in London in 1958, where Dennis Quaid mimed to a Jerry Lee Lewis song called ‘I’m On Fire’. Only trouble is, that song wasn’t written/recorded until 1964!

            It is similar with so many other movies of course (in ‘The Doors’, keyboardist Ray Manzarek has a daughter, despite the fact that he never had a daughter in real life!).

            Back to ‘Empire of Light’… my mother married a black West Indian man in the mid ’70s, and I don’t recall it being THAT much of a big deal (mind you, that was in South London rather than Margate!).

          • “… which would have been very difficult in 1980…”
            No it wouldn’t.
            In 1960 maybe. Not 1980. The English are not as backward as some wish to paint us.

          • I’ve just noticed that myself in the pre view , has that date been amended since it was put up ?
            1980 was most certainly the date that was previously mentioned by Sam Mendes , the film director .
            As I’ve said before ,all will become clear on the films release in January 2023 .

    • So am I ….. And interested to see that Trent Reznor ( Nine Inch Nails) has done the music soundtrack .
      Someone a bit too trendy for Peter Checksfield .

        • More so for his now long association with Gary Numan and how it helped with the rebirth of his career
          Check out the Trent Teznor cover version of the classic Led Zeppelin track “ The Immigrant song” which is the opening music to the hit film “ The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo “ which really worked well when I saw said film at the time at the Carlton in Dolby Surround sound .

  1. Excellent, brilliant publicity for Margate, will have the same tourism boost that Killing Eve had for local business.

  2. Looks like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” meets “Quadrophenia” and “This is England”. On downers.
    The problem with the contemporary Woke agenda is that it’s promotors are walking around in a dream world, utterly ignorant of anything that occurred before they were born.
    “Gypsy” was a far more relevant, cheaper, less disruptive use of Thanet. Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins in “Last Orders” too.

    • Last Orders only featured Margate fir a few minutes! Vast majority was about the journey down from London

      • It’s where a person today suddenly looks up from their screen, sees a pretty butterfly and seriously believes that they are the first person to ever see one. Then they run around shouting and gesticulating at others to look at the pretty butterfly too!
        From an ageing pink guy who had boyhood heroes and friends who didn’t have pink skin.

      • Being “woke” means to stand AGAINST racism and injustice of all forms.

        Those who are against often claim they cannot be racist because they have black or in harrys case, those who didn’t have “pink skin” friends.

        I mean, I guess at least Harry admits to allegedly being gammon (pink skin)…

        • Anon.
          I was the Chairperson of the local Amnesty group thirty years ago. Going into local schools to give talks on Human Rights before it was part of the National Curriculum.
          Twenty years ago I was Chair of the Regional and delegate to both National and Departmental Race Diversity Committees within Jobcentreplus. Having been elected to those roles by roomsful of people with non-pink skin. Working with the likes of Jennifer Crook to embed Blair & Straw’s “Creating Cohesive Communities” policy throughout government departments.
          What are your credentials for calling me names? Eh?
          I know full well what “Woke” means. I was awake before the phrase came into existence. Just as I was Green and raised my family that way before that phrase existed. All of the late and lately derided Baden-Powell’s acolytes were inculcated to “… think of others before myself.” I always have.

        • I don’t understand your need to use “ labels “ like “ Pink skin “and “ Gammon Pink skin “
          What’s that all about ?
          It looks so pretentious !
          Why not have the courage of your conviction and use words that you mean in your vocabulary that aren’t “ slang “ and that the majority of readers that use this platform will understand .
          Otherwise using said expressions look like that you are hiding behind their meaning .

    • I respect your opinion but I’m sorry but I beg to disagree with you about inter racial relationships being accepted in 1980 ,especially in Margate / Thanet where there wasn’t many ethnic people living in the area at the time .and I think that you’re looking back to that period with rose tinted glasses .
      Have you forgotten the inter racial tension riots from back in the day .?
      That’s why they’re reflected in Empire of Light !

      I well remember the comments a family member made at the time when popular tv star Leslie Crowther’s daughter married in the 80’s mixed race Irish Rock star legend Phil Lynott 😇 of Thin Lizzy .
      He had total sympathy for Mr Crowther having a mixed race son jn law and I suspect this situation would have been this family members worst nightmare had it happened to him .
      As you can see it made quite an impression on at the time and I never forgot it .
      Interestingly , this family member didn’t consider them self as being a racist .

      • I have not forgotten any of it.
        In 1980 I lived in the Portobello Rd. Having grown up in Sheppey and Sittingbourne. and, having relatives who’d lived in Forest Gate & East Ham.
        Skinheads, Mods, Rockers, Punks, New Romantics, Two Tone. It was all about fashion/style. Not racism or violence.
        “Melting Pot” and “Young, Gifted and Black” were a decade old.
        I do remember people and Parties with political agendas and a lot of hype too. Most of which are still about today. Follow the money!
        My personal experience tells me that there was more mixing then than happens today. West Indian, African, South Asian all mixed. Today’s mindset is far more ghettoised. Single faith schools, Social Science practitioners exacerbating and exaggerating differences to benefit their own career path/wallet.

      • I wouldn’t have liked my daughter (if I had one) marrying Phil Lynott either – NOT because of his colour, but because he had a serious drug addiction, that eventually killed him at a young age. Love his music though!

        Thin Lizzy are just one group that had a mixture of races in the band, which caused very little comment. Others are Showaddywaddy, Hot Chocolate, The Foundations and The Equals, and way back in 1959 (black) Emile Ford topped the UK charts with his (white) band. So yes, there were, and still are, racial problems, but people mixed very publicly even back then.

        • Incidentally, growing up with my parents’ Chubby Checker, Fats Domino and Jimmy Jones singles, I never knew what colour they were (the question never crossed my mind). It was many years later that I found out, not that it made any difference to my enjoyment.

          Anyway, I’ve done my morning cycle ride, time to have lunch then do a few hours work!!

          • I grew up with parents who both bought records and had excellent taste in music but they absolutely hated Motown music ,especially when their artists were on TOTP,
            I won’t repeat the words that they used back then
            Fortunately I grew up in Birmingham in the 70’s for the first 12 years of my life
            I was aware of the Enoch Powell “Rivers of blood “ speech none of this touched me as I grew up happily with Afro Caribbean / Asian children at school and at the Boys Brigade , they were my mates and the colour of their skin didn’t come into anything

  3. Will local residents get free tickets to compensate for all the disruption caused during the filming?????

    • Nice thought but Not very practical to do that is it . And since when have cinemas who have overheads been a charity letting people in for free .?

    • Why, Richard? What makes you feel as though you’re entitled to it? Do you also act like a beggit towards bt, virgin, sgn, etc al?

  4. I know the film production co gifted those festoon lights but has the isle of thanet news negotiated special ticket prices for us locals ?

    The locals who were inconvenienced, just asking

  5. So much negativity. Personally I can’t wait for it to be released. Trent Reznor producing the soundtrack is an absolute bonus. I do agree that a local premiere would have been a nice touch.

    • Shame there isn’t actually a working cinema in Margate…

      I would’ve loved to have seen ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ get its premiere at The Carlton in Westgate (the place where the movie was set), but where was it first shown? At a film festival in Colorado!

      • For reasons that I don’t understand Carlton cinema ran trailers for “ Louis Wain “ but didn’t show it .
        I saw “ The electric life of Louis Wain “ at the Palace cinema in Broadstairs , where due to the success of the film they showed again on a return showing a few weeks later .
        It’s a excellent film , see it if you can , have some tissues as there are a couple of scenes of pure joy and also some sadness . Spoiler alert over . Lol
        Incidentally I actually saw them making this film just by chance ,both when I was out walking ,
        once on a walk at Kingsgate but the best bit was being next to cast including Benedict Cumberbatch , Claire Foy and Andrea Riseborough when they were filming the Westgate scenes ……. At Walmer ,near Deal .
        It was great seeing the actors getting into character before filming commenced

        Back to “ Empire of Light “
        I don’t understand why there’s a delay for the general UK release until 13 January next year coming after the America release date
        Maybe there some big blockbusters coming out for Xmas in UK and they didn’t want to lose their film amongst them ?

      • Was that a quick glimpse that we could see in the “ Empire of Light” trailer of the Art Deco staircase inside the currently closed Dreamland cinema ?
        Not seen it in years !
        Are there any ambitions for Dreamland cinema to be re opened ?

      • I’ve been a big fan of Rock Band QUEEN since seeing them first perform “ Seven seas of Rhye” on
        TOTP in February 1974 ,plus their early appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test and since then Ive seen them on several occasions over their career with Freddie Mercury incl the famous Hammersmith Odeon concerts December 1975 , Free concert in Hyde Park 1976 and at Freddie’s last gig at Knebworth 1987 and more recently I’ve seen Queen with Adam Lambert
        So I know a lot about the band ……
        The film “ Bohemian Rhapsody “ about them was “ a box office smash “ and I’m in it as a member of the audience on the re make of the “ Live Aid “ scene done very well in this film
        It’s a very enjoyable , entertaining film , but take it from me there were things / events / clothes worn by them ,that were out of sequence in the film to when things happened .
        But none of this affected the enjoyment of the film
        I’ve also very recently seen the new Baz Luhrmann directed film “ Elvis “
        Again another enjoyable film , but again scenes are shown where dialogue or where they happened are misrepresented in this film
        As top film critic and self confessed Elvis buff Mark Kermode quoted about this film “ The less you know about Elvis , then the more you’ll enjoy it ! “.
        He said that as a compliment ! And it’s currently his film of 2022 !
        And my point is ….. Accuracy is good but a little artistic license sometimes is acceptable .

        • ‘Rocket Man’ was all over the place musically, historically and costumely (is that a word) too. As someone who makes a living writing about music hisory, these things really spoil my enjoyment!

          • One of the things that disappointed me about “ Rocketman “ was that the actors playing in Elton’s classic band didn’t look anything like Davey Johnstone , Dee Murray or Nigel Olson ..
            Plus I wasn’t happy that this film was more of a musical than a biopic .
            Not very Rock n Roll and big NO ! from me .

            Apparently there’s a new biopic film being made about Boy George , now that should be worth watching !

          • I really can’t recall the details now (I’ve only seen it once), but I know I was irritated several times by the inaccuracies in it. I thought Taron Egerton did a pretty concincing job though.

            My favourite biopic is probably ‘Ray’, where I often suspended reality and thought I was watching the real thing! Which is far more than I can say for ‘Walk The Line’…

          • One scene that springs to mind: He’s in the Troubadour Club (California) in 1970, wearing his dungarees and going down a storm – ALL of which really happened. This scene is then ruined by him launching into ‘Crocodile Rock’, a song that wasn’t written/recorded until 1972, by which time he’d moved on image-wise (in reality he didn’t really have any exciting uptempo songs in 1970, so he’d perform things like ‘Honky Tonk Women’ to liven up his shows)… a little thing for some, but from that point on I started looking out for other errors, and spotted several more.

    • Indeed who would have thought that cool Nine Inch Nails “ Industrial,Rocker” Trent Reznor would be doing the soundtrack to film set in Margate .
      You can’t make it up ,can you ?
      Not quite sure how it’s going sound like as the film is set in 1980 and his music is a million miles away from that period of time , plus I’m getting the impression that the film is very English and he’s American .
      We will have to wait and see won’t we ……

  6. Maybe he should have done a remake of “To Sir With Love”, featuring Olivia Coleman going into an East End school today? Might be a bit more relevant today?

      • Peter , Whilst I agree with your comments about “ Crocodile Rock “,being out of sync in the film Rocket man due to it not being written until 2 years later in 1972 , I have to disagree with you about Elton not having any uptempo songs in 1970
        His album (.which is his favourite ) Tumbleweed Connection was released in 1970 and the opening track
        “ Ballad of a well known gun” kicks the album off with an uptempo track and even the closing track
        “ Burn down the mission “ is up tempo,
        Anyway ……. What’s wrong with Elton throwing in a cover version during a concert ?
        Hrs done it all through out his career ,so I don’t understand the point that you’re trying to make …..
        Please don’t forget his big hit cover version with “ Pinball wizard “ by The Who

  7. Wait until you have seen it & gone with the story before you make judgement
    You raving loonies

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