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London’s Empire Cinema, home to Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter, granted listed status after campaign

The Empire Cinema on London's Haymarket
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London’s Empire Cinema, which started life as the Carlton Theatre and recently hosted the West End run of Brief Encounter, has been granted listed status.

The move comes despite an application to Historic England from the venue’s owner, the Crown Estate, for a certificate of immunity from listing.

Historic England denied the request and has instead given the venue on London’s Haymarket a grade II listing, in recognition of its architectural and historical relevance. The venue is the last remaining West End cinema from the interwar period with substantially intact interiors.

The Carlton Theatre was built in 1927 and designed by Frank Verity and Sam Beverley. It was built to show both films and live theatre. Its first night performance was a stage production, with films being shown from 1928. From 1929, it was used primarily as a cinema.

A number of organisations, including the Cinema Theatre Association and the Theatres Trust, opposed the application for a COI. Listed status gives the building greater protection in future planning decisions.

Claire Appleby, architecture adviser at the Theatres Trust, said: “We are delighted Historic England has recognised the architectural, cultural and historic significance of the Carlton. Listed status carries great weight in planning decisions and protects much loved buildings from unnecessary loss or insensitive development. We look forward to working towards achieving a sustainable future for the building for the long term.”

A spokeswoman for the Crown Estate said the company was “aware of the decision to grant a grade II listing for the former Carlton Theatre, on Haymarket”.

“In line with our strong track record for careful and sensitive regeneration of this part of the West End, and alongside our joint venture partner Oxford Properties, we will continue to work closely with heritage organisations and local stakeholders as part of our ongoing management of the site,” she added.

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