Rex History

A Potted Guide

Originally the Oddfellows Hall and built in 1889 it provided various entertainments such as the travelling theatre shows, banquets, concerts etc. - possibly visiting Bioscope shows were presented prior to World War 1. During the Great War Wareham folk used the Garrison Cinema at Worgret, just west of Wareham, but later this venue closed and no local cinema existed until the Empire Theatre opened in the Oddfellows Hall in 1920.

1927 - The "Talkies" arrived at the Empire.
1931 - Mr. Harry Mears was running the cinema.
1934 - Mr. Elgar took over running the Empire whilst also running the Palace, Isle of Wight.
1937 - Mr. Joe Merrick ran the then excellent business due to the influx of military units - especially prior to D-Day
1949 - Mr. Merrick died in an aircraft accident and his wife Vi continued to manage the business.
1963 - The cinema was renovated, the arched ceiling was added and a pair of 'Kalee' carbon-arc projectors were installed. The Boxing Day re-opening featured the musical 'South Pacific'.
1969 - The Rex was taken over by the Myles Byrne Group and managed by 'Rusty' Irons.
1987 - 'Rusty' retired and the Rex became the enthusiastic project by a group of local people.

Over the years with the help of the Purbeck District Council, the Friends of the Rex, and the Rex Players much work has been done whilst still retaining the character of the cinema, but adding many improvements: including a new fire escape, new toilets, redecoration, replaced and re-spaced seats, new projectors, replaced curtains and a stair lift.

The Rex Bar was added in the Oddfellows Meeting Room in 2003 and the Rex is now among the few cinemas in the UK where it is possible to have a glass of wine or beer whilst watching the film!

In 2009 the Rex was acquired by the Purbeck Film Charitable Trust and it became a not for profit, community cinema, run almost entirely by dedicated volunteers.  Many improvements have been made to the cinema since 2009, including the refurbishment of the auditorium, a new screen and surround sound system, and in 2019 a new, state of the art digital projector was purchased, offering audiences cutting edge technology.

Every upgrade at the cinema has been made possible through grants, fundraising and donations, for which we are not only grateful for, but we have been astounded at the generosity and support of the local community. It is because of this support we are currently undergoing a refurbishment in the bar and we are replacing the toilets, installing a new stair lift and improving access to make the Rex as wonderful a place as we can for all of our valued patrons. 

We look forward to giving you a warm welcome at our beloved cinema - we're sure you will want to come back!