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‘Empire of Light’ Trailer: Olivia Colman Stars in Sam Mendes’ Ode to Movie Theaters

The 1980s period film co-starring Micheal Ward releases in theaters December 9.

Empire of Light

“Empire of Light”

Searchlight Pictures

Oscar season isn’t complete without a good old-fashioned movie about the magic of movies. Searchlight Pictures has released the full trailer for “Empire of Light,” Sam Mendes’ upcoming movie theater romance.

Set in the 1980s, “Empire of Light” focuses on middle-aged Hilary Small (Olivia Colman), an employee of “The Empire,” a cinema in a coastal English town with a history of mental illness and a dependency on lithium. Depressed and lonely, Hilary forms an unexpected romance with Stephen (Micheal Ward), a young Black man who begins working at the theater after getting rejected from graduate school. The romance broadens the previously apathetic Hilary’s world, and she slowly begins to develop an appreciation for film as an art form. In addition to the May-December romance between the main characters, the film also explores major British political events of the ’80s, particularly the 1981 Brixton Riots and the rise of the far-right fascist National Front party.

“Empire of Light” is the first film Mendes directed and wrote himself, after he made his screenwriting debut co-writing the script for “1917” with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Roger Deakins serves as the cinematographer on the film in his fifth collaboration with Mendes, following “1917,” “Skyfall,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Jarhead.” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross composed the score for the film, their first for Mendes — the two have previously won two Oscars for their film soundtracks, for 2010’s “The Social Network” and 2020’s “Soul,” the latter of which they shared with Jon Batiste. Along with Colman and Ward, “Empire of Light” also stars Colin Firth as the Empire’s owner Mr. Ellis and Toby Jones as Hilary and Stephen’s fellow employee Norman, the projectionist for the theater.

“Empire of Light” initially premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on September 3. Next up, it premieres in U.S. theaters December 9, before hitting its native United Kingdom January 13. Check out the full trailer below.

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