Empire of Light: Sam Mendes’ New Film, Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth, to Screen at London Film Festival T

‘Empire of Light,’ Starring Olivia Colman, Micheal Ward and Colin Firth, to Screen at London Film Festival

The Searchlight Feature, set in an old cinema by the English seaside in the 1980s, will have its European premiere at the festival.


The Searchlight film, marking Mendes’ first solo credit as screenwriter and starring Oscar winners Olivia Colman and Colin Firth alongside fast-rising talent Micheal Ward (Top Boy, Small Axe), will receive its European premiere Oct. 12 at London’s Royal Festival Hall. 

Mendes, whose previous feature 1917 won seven BAFTAs, including best film, and three Oscars, is expected to attend alongside longtime producing partner Pippa Harris and the film’s key cast, including Colman, Ward, Firth, Toby Jones, Tanya Moodie, Tom Brooke and Crystal Clarke. A new still of the film, featuring its leads Colman and Ward, has also been released.

Set in a seaside town on the south coast of England early 1980s, Empire of Light is a love story that revolves around an old cinema.

Searchlight has described it as “a powerful and poignant story about human connection and the magic of cinema.”

Reuniting Colman and Firth, who played husband and wife in the 2021 drama Mothering Sunday, the film also reunites Mendes with cinematographer Roger Deakins, with whom he worked on JarheadRevolutionary RoadSkyfall and 1917, for which he won an Oscar.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be included in this year’s BFI London Film Festival as the AMEX Gala screening,” said Mendes. “Empire of Light is a very personal movie for me, and I can’t wait to show it in my hometown.”

Empire of Light is produced by Mendes and Harris’ Neal Street Productions, in partnership with Searchlight. The film will release theatrically in the U.S. on Dec. 9 and in the U.K. on Jan. 13, seemingly putting it in prime awards season contention.

“When I read that Sam Mendes’ next project was centered around a cinema, I was so excited about the possibility of being able to present it in the BFI London Film Festival,” said festival director Tricia Tuttle. “Mendes is a masterful storyteller and here vividly captures a sense of the south coast of England in the 1980s.

Empire of Light explores the importance of community, the power of storytelling and of the movies, specifically the thrill of watching a film in a dark cinema, and the tactile pleasures of celluloid. And these are themes so close to our hearts at the BFI. The entire ensemble cast is truly exceptional, with Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward offering stunning central performances.”

London Film Festival, taking place October 5-16, has already announced its opening night film in Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical and closer in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. The full lineup will be revealed September 1.