Cinema due back in Sunderland early next year, Lib Dems reveal

5 Dec 2023

Sunderland could be set to get a new cinema in the former Empire Cinema building in Sunniside in the new year, city development chiefs have revealed.

Responding to questions from city Lib Dem Deputy Leader Heather Fagan in a meeting of the Council’s Economic Prosperity Committee this evening (5th December), city development officers confirmed that the Council was focusing on bringing a cinema back to the city in the existing building under a new operator and hoped to have an announcement in early 2024.

The former Empire Cinema chain went into administration in July. Since then opposition Lib Dems have been consistently pushing Council chiefs to make sure every effort is made to make sure the building, which Sunderland Council owns, is brought back to life as a cinema.

The authority previously announced funding for refurbishment of the building, but it was not confirmed what it would be used for.

Commenting, Lib Dem councillor for the Hendon & City Centre area (including Sunniside) Ciaran Morrissey said: “After months of local Lib Dem councillors pushing Council bosses to prioritise bringing back a cinema to Sunderland, it is really encouraging that they have finally confirmed that this is what they are planning to do with the former Empire Cinema building.

“The Council usually prefers to build car parks and student accommodation so I’m sure people across the city will welcome the prospect of a cinema coming back to Sunderland.”

Deputy Leader of Wearside Lib Dems Councillor Heather Fagan said: “There was a real fear that we would once again become a bit of a laughing stock as one of the biggest cities in the country without a cinema, which is why opposition Lib Dem councillors have been pushing Council chiefs to prioritise bringing this building back to life as a cinema – and putting operators in touch with the Council to explore options.

“I hope that a cinema under a new operator is up and running again as quickly as possible, so it can play its part in making sure our city centre is alive and thriving.”

Cllr Ciaran Morrisey outside the Cinema