IT was one of the last of the old cinemas of Huddersfield.
Now new life is being breathed into the Empire Cinema – and locals will be able to view its makeover for the first time this weekend.
The grand building at John William Street is being opened as a vintage clothing and homeware shop.
And its new tenants say the business will make the most of the cinema’s old features.
The cinema has had a varied history.
It was opened in 1915 and managed by Mark Freedman, who introduced many “first run” and famous films of the “silent” days.
More recently the upper floors of the building – run as a separate business to the shop space downstairs – have been used as an adult cinema and sex shop.
The ground floor space was last used by computer gamers and had been empty for a year.
It was in a poor state of cosmetic repair when the owner of Magic Vintage, local businessman Peter Chiappe, spotted its potential.
Peter, who already has a shop in the Byram Arcade, felt it was in the perfect place to help expand the company’s presence in the town.
The project to overhaul the dated interior took four weeks.
He was helped by his friend and fellow businessman Alan Kane, who runs the fashion shop Dais Boutique in Byram Arcade.
Alan, who is helping with the marketing for the shop, said it’s unique nature should fit in well with the fabric of the building.
He said: “It’s a vintage clothing and homeware store, but the idea is that it will not just be a static shop.
“It’s such a unique space and the plan is to make the most of it. The shop will be forever changing and each month there’s going to be a different event or theme.
“The idea of everything being vintage fits in really well with the location and the building itself.”
The grand frontage to the grade II listed building remains the same, but workers had to do quite a bit of work to improve the interior.
This included changing the cold blue colour scheme and fixing some of the flooring.
The colour scheme is red, blue and white in a nod to the British Empire and the building’s name
Alan said: “Having this space, knowing the history associated with it and the fact that some life is now being breathed into it makes this really exciting for us.
“It’s a very distinctive building. It is one of the oldest cinemas in Huddersfield and there are very few of these remaining now, so it has a strong stance in the community.
“It is one of the town’s great assets and it would be a shame if it was torn down and replaced by new housing or fake replicas like what’s being allowed in other places.”
Magic Vintage at the Empire opens from today at 8am.