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A beautifully told story about the magic of the cinema and an unexpected romance, from the Academy Award-winning director of American Beauty. In a quiet town on the British coast in the 1980s, the Empire cinema creates memorable experiences for both its staff and the town’s inhabitants.

Hilary works the ticket and concessions stand at the Empire, a grand and gorgeous cinema that seems to be one of the last of its kind, with red velvet seats, majestic balconies, and beautiful lights. Every morning she goes through the daily routines that keep the cinema’s operation going, only interrupted by the manager’s often need for her assistance in his office, usually of the indecent kind. The days seem to blend into one another, and Hilary has long ago accepted that this seems to be the life she will have. The arrival of Stephen, a young and eager new employee provides a jolt in Hilary’s existence, as the youngster sees the positives in everything, including her. The two soon begin a warm, although surprising relationship that provides a much-needed spark in Hilary’s heart, but also makes it harder for her to hide a complicated past. While Stephen, a young black man has to fight the increasing racism, Hilary is fighting her own battle with her mental health. The couple soon realizes that their love cannot last forever.

Empire of Light is a moving and powerful story anchored in the director’s own memories and is a love letter to film and cinemas. Director of photography Roger Deakins masterfully captures both the subtle moments and the film’s grand production design, making the film a visually gorgeous experience, that is also tender and engaging in its honest themes.


Sam Mendes (b. 1965) is a British director from Reading, England. He directed several plays before making his feature film debut with American Beauty in 1999. The film won five Academy Awards, including best director for Mendes. He has since directed several critically acclaimed films, as well as two of the biggest hits of the James Bond franchise.


2019 1917
2012 Skyfall
2008 Revolutionary Road
2002 Road to Perdition
1999 American Beauty

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