Empress Theatre (Montreal)

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The Empress Theatre
Empress Theatre.jpg
Empress Theatre on Sherbrooke Street West in N.D.G.
Alternative names Cinema V
General information
Type Movie theatre
Architectural style Egyptian Revival architecture
Location Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Address 5560 Sherbrooke Street West
Coordinates 45°28′18″N 73°36′46″W / 45.4718°N 73.6129°W / 45.4718; -73.6129Coordinates: 45°28′18″N 73°36′46″W / 45.4718°N 73.6129°W / 45.4718; -73.6129
Current tenants None (abandoned)
Inaugurated 1927
Owner City of Montreal
Design and construction
Architect Joseph-Alcide Chaussé
Other designers Emmanuel Briffa

The Empress Theatre (also known as Cinema V), is an abandoned Egyptian-style theatre located on Sherbrooke Street West in the N.D.G. district of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It has been closed since 1992.


Empress Theatre in 1943
Cinema V in 1982.

Built in 1927 and designed by Joseph-Alcide Chaussé, with interiors by Emmanuel Briffa,[1] it is the only theatre in Canada designed in the Egyptian style (inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb).[2] Opened as the Empress Theatre, the building was a vaudeville theatre for burlesque and first-run films.[3] In 1962 it was a dinner theatre called the Royal Follies.[4] In 1968 it became a two-tiered art-movie cinema called Cinema V-Salle Hermes. In 1974 it was briefly named The Home of the Blue Movies and in 1975 it became Cinema V, a repertory cinema. In 1988 it was acquired by Famous Players and showed first-run films. In 1992 a fire caused damage to the theater resulting in its permanent closure.

Current state[edit]

Empress Theatre in May 2015

The abandoned building is slowly deteriorating and its perimeter fenced off. In 2005 community organizers opened a small one room office on the ground floor (left corner of building; location of a former health food store) as a headquarters for the building's restoration. The office was closed by the city in December 2011, leaving the building vacant and continuing to deteriorate.

Uncertain future[edit]

Geordie Productions [1], Black Theatre Workshop, McGill Music Conservatory and the City of Montreal had planned to restore the building. The estimated cost was $11.8 million.[5][6] The theatre was to be used for performance and visual arts[3] and included a cafe/art gallery and a 246-person concert hall.[7] It was to be home to Geordie Productions and Black Theatre Workshop, and the McGill Conservatory had planned to use the theatre for its music program.[3]

In August 2010 the provincial government pulled funding and announced ownership would be returned to the city of Montreal by November.[8] Residents of NDG formed Renaissance Empress, a group dedicated to preserving the theatre and transforming it into a cultural centre, and delayed the move. On August 15, 2011 the city seized ownership, effectively canceling the project.

In January 2012, the borough of N.D.G. announced any non-profit group with a new plan for the building present it by May 11, 2012. The city stated it would not provide any funding for the building.

On September 5, 2012, the borough voted to accept Cinema NDG's proposal. Their plan was to open a movie theater with four screening rooms and set aside 20% of the building for commercial use. Restoration of the building was estimated at $12 million.[9] Cinema NDG was given until December 31, 2013 to find financial backing, but failed to meet the deadline; two extensions were granted in both 2014 and 2015 but Cinema NDG failed to meet these as well. On November 2, 2015 the city voted to grant a third and final extension, for June 30, 2016,[10] but yet again Cinema NDG failed to meet the deadline, forfeiting the project.

In late September 2016, in hope of a new start, Cinema NDG submitted a revised and scaled back plan to the city, bringing the estimate cost down to $9.5 million. At present the city has shown no willingness to accept a new plan, and furthermore stated under no circumstance will it transfer ownership of the building unless Cinema NDG can prove it has secured 100% of the funding.[11] The fate of the building, abandoned 25 years now, remains in limbo.


  1. ^ "Cinema V". Montreal Images. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  2. ^ LEMIRE, ROBERT. "Chaussé, Joseph-Alcide". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica-Dominion. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c CA (2009-03-17). "Empress Cultural Centre waiting for funding so construction can begin — Cultural activities — Arts — The Chronicle". Themonitor.ca. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  4. ^ O'Hanley, Stephanie (March 3, 2005). "Cinema V gets new lease on life". Hour magazine. Montreal: Communications Voir inc. Archived from the original on 17 July 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "CTV Montreal — Hopes for Empress spotlight to shine again — CTV News". Montreal.ctv.ca. 2009-11-22. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  6. ^ O'Hanley, Stephanie (February 14, 2008). "Cinema V building to become new cultural centre". Hour magazine. Montreal: Communications Voir inc. Archived from the original on 19 March 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2009. 
  7. ^ Heffez, Alanah (2008-09-09). "Photo du Jour – Empress Theatre " Spacing Montreal". Spacingmontreal.ca. Retrieved 2010-07-30. 
  8. ^ ANNE SUTHERLAND, The Gazette : (2010-08-17). "City of Montreal taking back the Empress". Global Toronto. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  9. ^ Radio-Canada Info (3 June 2014). "La renaissance du cinéma Empress?" – via YouTube. 
  10. ^ "Cinema V revival back on track as borough extends fundraising deadline". 3 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Citizens take another shot at saving the Empress Theatre". 

External links[edit]