A history of Chorley Little Theatre

Chorley Little Theatre in 1975
Chorley Little Theatre in 1975

A The creative heart of Chorley has to be the Little Theatre. Built in 1910, as the Empire Electric Theatre, it originally seated 700 people, having rows of hard wooden seats at the front, and the more expensive ‘plush seats’ at the back.

The creative heart of Chorley has to be the Little Theatre. Built in 1910, as the Empire Electric Theatre, it originally seated 700 people, having rows of hard wooden seats at the front, and the more expensive ‘plush seats’ at the back.

Originally showing silent movies such as ‘Affair of the Hearts’ and ‘Tilly the Tomboy’ accompanied by live piano music, the theatre kept pace with the rapidly progressing film industry.In 1955, a bold decision was taken to show ‘Rock Around the Clock’, already banned in many other cinemas for being a bad influence on young people.

So grave were the concerns of the management, they connected a hose pipe to a hydrant within the theatre, ready to calm down unruly behaviour or hooliganism by the hordes of teenagers showing up to watch the controversial film.

The cinema has opened its doors to enthralled audiences for over half a century, sadly closing in 1957; it became a venue for wrestling.

Later, it might have become a car showroom, but fortunately CADOS (Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society) managed to rescue it.

CADOS have made it a wonderful success story, with theatre productions and a wide range of shows and comedy performances.

In 2009 the building was extensively renovated, the original stained glass frontage of the Empire was uncovered, and kept as a feature.

It now seats 236 people in comfort, has a fully licensed bar and car parking facilities just across the road.

The Chorley Film Society decided to change their name to the Chorley Empire Community Cinema, in keeping with the theatre’s rich history, and has been showing films on a regular basis at the Little Theatre since 1990.

The theatre is also home to the Chorley Youth Theatre, who meet and put on productions there several times per year.

Chorley Little Theatre is a wonderful place, it is steeped in history and a very warm welcome is given to all visitors by the volunteers who keep it thriving.

- If you would like to contribute to our Flashback section, email kay.taylor@lep.co.uk.