Movie Empire of Light – which was filmed in and around Margate between the end of February and May last year – goes on official UK release on January 9.
The film, written and directed by Sam Mendes, has already had a special screening at the Palace Cinema in Broadstairs and another will take place for invited guests at the Carlton Cinema in Westgate on Sunday (January 8).
Empire of Light is a tale of people brought together by the magic of cinema. It stars Olivia Colman as Hilary, manager of the Empire, a once opulent seaside cinema in a once flourishing holiday town. But, in 1981, all three have fallen on troubled times.
Hilary loves the old place despite its crumbling state and, when it’s booked for a regional film premiere, she and the cinema staff – including dedicated projectionist Norman (Toby Jones), grumpy manager Mr Ellis (Colin Firth) and handsome new box office staff Stephen (Micheal Ward) – need to find the hope, energy and imagination to bring the Empire back to life. There’s a lot stacked against them pulling it off, not least the world outside the cinema’s doors in which recession, racism and unemployment are on the rise.
Alongside the cast, the creative team includes cinematographer Roger Deakins, designer Mark Tildesley, editor Lee Smith and casting director Nina Gold. They bring together a vivid picture of 1980s Britain in the film which explores the wonder of cinemas and the joy of watching movies on the big screen together.
The production brought an estimated £4million into the Thanet economy through everything from accommodation and food costs to items and services bought locally.
Many residents responded to the call for movie extras and 1300 people of all ages were cast as background artists throughout the shoot.
Locations used included Margate’s main seafront road, the beach, the Old Town, Cliftonville,, Darcy’s Café and Manston airport site.
Dreamland, Kent Film Office, Thanet District Council and Visit Kent are celebrating Kent’s arrival on the big screen.
With its art-deco architecture and role as one of the UK’s most popular seaside destinations, Margate shines as the backdrop to the moving film with the faded Empire Cinema using Dreamland’s frontage and locations across the town.
The film has already earned Olivia Colman a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama.
Eddie Kemsley, CEO Dreamland Margate, said: “It has been a real joy to work with Sam Mendes and the team behind Empire of Light. Watching them bring the iconic Dreamland seafront buildings back to life has been thrilling and inspiring. We hope that the film will encourage people to come to Margate and sample the delights on offer at Dreamland and in the town as a whole.”
Cllr Ash Ashbee, Leader of Thanet District Council, added: “I am delighted that Sam Mendes chose Margate as the main location for his film Empire of Light, recognising the golden sands and timeless charm of the town. My thanks go to the people and businesses of Thanet for their support during filming as well as to the many council officers who worked hard to make the shoot run as smoothly as possible.”
Gabrielle Lindemann, from the Kent Film Office, said: “Working with our local partners, businesses and residents to facilitate filming for Empire of Light was a thrilling challenge for the Kent County Council Film Office.
“The request to build and manage a studio set that overlooks the real world instead of using CGI or back projection on some stage elsewhere was completely exceptional and, as far as we are aware, not previously attempted on this scale. Essentially, the entire, busy, modern seaside resort of Margate became a 1980’s film set for three months.”
Dreamland, Kent Film Office, Thanet District Council and Visit Kent are pleased to be able to share a short, behind-the-scenes feature, created by Searchlight Pictures, using footage shot during filming for Empire of Light. It includes director and writer Sam Mendes, who praises Margate as “an extraordinary place”, with a “kind of magic to it”, as well as acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins who called the chance to film at Dreamland, “too good an opportunity”, with its sea-views and art-deco facade.
The behind-the-scenes look film is being shared by Visit Kent, Thanet District Council, Kent Film Office and Dreamland across their social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
To celebrate Empire of Light’s release, Visit Thanet, in partnership with Guest House Hotels, Dreamland and Southeastern, is offering one winner the chance to win the following prize for two people.
A stay at the No. 42 by Guest House Margate
Be amongst the first guests to experience a ‘Guest House’ stay at this Victorian beach-front building overlooking Margate Main Sands. Includes a one-night, bed and breakfast stay for two adults.
A day out at Dreamland
Experience Dreamland’s beautiful vintage rides, including the famous Scenic Railway. Includes refreshment vouchers up to the value of £20 per head, which can be redeemed in selected food outlets in the park.
Empire of Light Bundle
An exclusive limited edition bundle of Empire of Light goodies including a mug, t-shirt, notebook and tote bag.
Return train tickets to Margate on Southeastern trains including the high speed rail service. The service takes approximately 90 minutes from St. Pancras International in London.
Full details of the competition (including partner Terms and Conditions), and instructions on how to enter are available here: www.visitthanet.co.uk/empirebreak