LUKE MARSDEN: Is cinema closure indicative of wider problems in the town?
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It does feel symbolic of the shutters coming down around Wigan.Like many a Wiganer, I spent countless hours at Empire Cinemas, on some successful and even more not-so-successful first dates.
My first time ever going to watch a film on the big screen was at Empire (or Virgin Cinemas as it was then) I went with my mum and sister and was in total amazement at the large screens and even larger popcorn buckets.
The problem Empire had though was it was stuck in the 1990s. The seats were old, uncomfortable and smelly versus Vue’s premium offering at Middlebrook for the same (or sometimes cheaper) price.
The pandemic changed the cinema landscape in a way from which it will never recover. But once it started to cost the same as a monthly mortgage payment to take your family to a film, that really was the beginning of the end.
The days of big cinema are probably, sadly, numbered, while smaller independently-run ones seem like the future. Leigh Film Factory is a good example.
The one thing that Wigan town centre does not need is a cinema. The Galleries redevelopment/destruction still has plans for a state-of-the-art one. This is a disastrous move that needs to be stopped before it starts otherwise, within five years of opening, it will go the same way as Empire.
Times have, and are, changing, consumer habits are evolving and we need to adapt just like big business has.
My heart is with those staff who overnight lost their jobs without warning, but they must have seen the writing on the wall when massive showings had fewer than 10 people in them. I hope they can find new employment ASAP, but I do fear for the future of Wigan. If we don’t adapt quickly the curtain may come down on our town too.