In the 1960's the Empire Cinema was leased to Top Ten Bingo which ran for a successful period and until the smoking ban reduced attendances. This was coupled with the building of another Bingo hall in the Melin area of Neath. The Empire Bingo centre ceased to operate in 2009. The last documented session was on 14th February 2010 after a final attempt to restore an interest in the Bingo club.
Below are two shots looking towards the stage - where the cinema screen was once positioned.
Report dated 9th September 2009
Yet more sad news reaches us that another bingo hall will be closed down. The most recent closure concerns an Empire bingo hall in Neath, in Wales. It was confirmed that the bingo hall will be closing, however, no further information was given regarding timescale or stating reasons. Many will not doubt be aware that there have been a huge number of bingo hall closures recently, with most attributed to lack of profits due to the smoking ban, new tax legislation and dwindling membership in the face of a global recession. The Empire Bingo hall is located in a former cinema building on the Ropewalk in Neath, and despite adverse conditions has an exceptionally loyal community following.
And a flash from the past.....
Below is a video found on YouTube, it shows how the interior of the cinema was transformed for Bingo.
Note the difference in the design of the ceiling compared to the original pictured on the home page - this change was after the fire in 1974.
Ghost town fear after bingo hall closes its doors
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 This is SouthWales
MEMBERS of a Neath bingo club have been left devastated after the place they dubbed a "home from home" called 'house' for the last time on Sunday.
Empire Bingo in The Ropewalk held its final session on Valentine's Day, despite being given a temporary reprieve from its original closure date of last September.
One long-term member of the bingo club, Frank Thomas, said its closure was "the last nail in Neath's coffin".
"All the old people are disgusted," he said.
"The Empire was always a place where you could go for a laugh, a joke and a cheap night out," added 66-year-old Mr Thomas.
The school caretaker from Tonna said he was concerned about the loss of a place where people, both young and old, could meet up, and said he feared it would now be replaced by housing.
"That is the only thing that is going to be left in Neath," said Mr Thomas.
"It is getting to be a ghost town; there is nothing for the children or the old people," he added.
As the Post reported last August, news that the Empire Bingo hall, which is also home to a snooker club, was to close reduced members to tears.
Many of them have been members of Empire Bingo, which has been dubbed the Heart of Neath, for decades.
During last summer's shock announcement that it was to be axed, members were told the bingo hall's closure was due to a combination of factors including rising overheads and the impact of the smoking ban.
President of Neath Chamber of Trade, Keith Harding, said the closure was a loss to the town.
"It is a landmark which has been in Neath for so many years," he said. "It has been a central meeting place for a lot of people for the best part of their lives and that is the focal point for their social calendar for the week," said Mr Harding.
Neath councillor Mal Gunter, a former town and county mayor, agreed it was a sad day in Neath's history.
"It was more than a bingo hall, it was a community centre for friends who had been going there for many years," he said.
Councillor Gunter added: "It is an iconic building in the town and I can remember it as a child when it was a cinema."
A staff member at St Albans-based Top Ten Bingo Holdings, which owns the facility, confirmed previously the fact the hall was closing, but was unable to provide further information.
Finally - the end
Below a view of the hall after the Bingo tables were removed, prior to demolition.
Look at the space and think what a fine dance hall or ice skating rink this could have been. Alas, no vision by the council - residents have to travel to Swansea to go dancing.