The theatre was originally built on the site of Stockton Castle and was named the Castle Theatre although this name changed as early as 1911 to the Empire. It soon became to be used principally as a music hall rather than staging plays before becoming a 'palace of varieties'. However, most people will remember the building as the Empire cinema and children at the time believed because it was built on an old castle that there might be a secret tunnel through which they could enter for free. However the old cinema closed down in around 1961 and even in the 1950s it was showing old James Cagney movies so clearly its days as a cinema were numbered, especially when the Odeon was just across the road.
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Relics, Remains or ruins of Stockton Castle ?
"The only reputed relic of the old Castle is a wrought stone, about three feet in length , on which are the figures of two couchant lions . This was formerly built up in the wall of a cow-byer in Hartburn , but was afterwards placed in the grounds of the late Colonel Sleigh at Elton "
Source : An Historical, Topographical, and Descriptive View of the County ..., Volume 2 By Eneas Mackenzie, Marvin Ross 1834