In the 1940/1950's, the years when cinemas were particularly popular with the introduction of colour film, there were frequent queues for admittance. It was the time when the Empire Neath was more of an entertainment centre, enjoyed by thousands of Neath and district residents who only had radio at home.
The Empire Cinema was built in 1925/26 by W H Snow & Sons on site that was originally meant to be a garage. It was owned and run by the Hedge family who opened it in October 1926. After the war years it was sold to South Wales Cinemas.
After a refurbishment in 1936 the cinema had a seating capacity of 1,300. In the early years silent films were screened with music provided by a piano played by Gladys Williams. The Christie organ was installed in 1931 but by that time there was sound on all new films.
The Empire was considered the most popular cinema in Neath and the only one with an organ - the other two cinemas being the Windsor and the Gnoll. Below the cinema. on the ground floor, was the ballroom where Joe Berni and his band provided music for dancing, mainly on weekends.
The Empire cafe, also on the ground floor, provided meals and refreshments at reasonable prices throughout the day. This was one of the many cafes in Neath run by Joe Berni and his family.
On a corner of the ground floor, with its own entrance, was a chemist shop owned by Freddie James. It was conveniently opposite a doctor's surgery, which later became the RAFA club, which it still is today.
Milestones in the history of the Neath Empire are listed in the Menu and include FILM RELEASES during the year highlighted.
During the 33 years the Empire screened films, it is estimated that there were well over 6 million visits the the cinema. This period of time should therefore not pass without a record such as this website.
In the 1960's Bingo took over from films as television became the main form of entertainment at home. In the the cafe area, snooker tables provided another form of recreation and the ballroom and cafe became a thing of the past.
In 1974 there was a fire after which there were was major internal refurbishment, the exterior suffering no damage.
Bingo finished on 14th February 2010. The building was bought at the end of 2011 by the Coastal Housing Group after they explored the possiblity of replacing it with 12 flats for social housing.
Demolition commenced in June 2012.