Empire Theatre (41st Street)

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Empire Theatre
Violet Kemble-Cooper and John Barrymore in Clair de Lune.jpg
Violet Kemble-Cooper and John Barrymore in the Blanche Oelrichs play Clair de Lune at the Empire Theatre in 1921
Address 1430 Broadway (40th & 41st)
New York City
United States
Owner Charles Frohman, Al Hayman
Capacity About 1100
Opened 1893
Demolished 1953
Architect J.B. McElfatrick

The Empire Theatre in New York City was a prominent Broadway theatre in the first half of the twentieth century.


The Empire Theatre opened in 1893 with a performance of The Girl I Left Behind Me by David Belasco. In February 1927 actress Gail Kane and others were arrested following a performance of The Captive, which was considered indecent and a violation of Section 1140A of the New York City Criminal Code.

The Empire continued to present both original plays and revivals, including the English premiere of The Threepenny Opera in 1933, until 1953. Its final show, The Time of the Cuckoo, closed May 30, 1953 after 263 performances. In the same month, the theatre hosted a benefit celebrating the sixty-year history of the Empire.[1]

Ownership and management[edit]

Frank Sanger and Al Hayman were the owners and developers of the uptown vacant lot that became the Empire Theatre. Hayman suggested that theatre producer Charles Frohman have the Empire Theatre built there, believing everything theatrical was moving uptown at the time.

The original lessees were listed as Charles Frohman and his partner William Harris of the firm Rich & Harris who were set to take possession of the building on January 23, 1893 which was also set to be the theatre's opening night.

The Empire Theatre's business manager was Thomas F. Shea for over 20 years from its opening till the death of Charles Frohman. After Frohman died on the RMS Lusitania in 1915, Al Hayman took over ownership of the Empire Theatre.

The theatre was sold in 1948 to the Astor estate; in 1953 it was announced that the building would be torn down to make way for an office tower.

The theatre community reminisced and performers gathered to celebrate the venue in a retrospective farewell performance.


Charles Frohman hired architect J. B. McElfatrick to design the Empire Theatre; it was the first of the seven theatres designed by McElfatrick. The Empire was the first theatre to have electricity and was said to be thoroughly fireproof. The building was the only stock theatre at that time to be on the ground floor and to have no steps entering from the street.

On December 2, 1892, it was reported in the New York Times that the building had been completed and was in the hands of the plasterers and decorators.


External links[edit]