Cinematheque 2023

Expanding the art of cinema

Join us for Cinematheque screenings at the Patricia Theatre to enjoy specially curated, limited-run releases from around the world! When available, special screenings will be shown on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7pm, and Thursday matinees at 1:30.

Empire of Light

February 8 @ 7:00 pm

February 9 @ 1:30 & 7:00 pm

February 8 & 9

7:00 pm Nightly
Thursday Matinee at 1:30 pm
Rated PG — 1 hr 56 min

Romance / Drama

Empire of Light is Sam Mendes’ intimate new character drama, wherein Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward pursue a bittersweet workplace romance in Sam Mendes’s look back at Britain in the early 1980s

The film takes place in and around an old movie palace in a British seaside town. This cinema, which is called the Empire, is more than a mere setting: it’s the film’s center of gravity, its soul, its governing metaphor and reason for being. The story is set in the fall and winter of 1980-81 in the seaside town of Margate, Kent, around a palatial two-screen Art Deco theater that shows films that were new back then (including “Raging Bull,” “Stir Crazy,” and “9 to 5”) and that fed the imagination of young Mendes, who based parts of the script on his youth.

The director and cinematographer use the big screen to shape and emphasize how ordinary lives unfold within a landscape of history that the tiny figures in its foreground can’t fully comprehend. Colman inhabits Hilary with her customary fullness and impeccable judgment, always putting her energy into conveying the character’s churning, contradictory feelings. She oversees a motley group: There is a nerdy guy, a post-punk girl and a grumpy projectionist. They are soon joined by Stephen (Micheal Ward), a genial young man whose college plans are on hold. Hilary and her boss, Mr. Ellis (Colin Firth), are carrying on a desultory affair.

What Empire of Light really wants to be about are the pleasures of ’80s pop music, fine English poetry and, above all, movies. Mendes doesn’t filter Empire of Light’s inherent nostalgia through rose-colored glasses — though it’s still given the full prestige-drama treatment, courtesy of god-tier cinematographer Roger Deakins shooting it all like a cinephile’s version of heaven.

To be sure, Empire of Light has a sad story to tell, one that touches on mental illness, sexual exploitation, racist violence and other grim facts of life.

Sam Mendes

Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward, Monica Dolan, Tom Brooke, Tanya Moodie, Hannah Onslow, Crystal Clarke, Toby Jones, and Colin Firth.