AMC Empire 25

234 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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RobbKCity on January 2, 2005 at 9:12 am

You know it’s ironic that AMC saved and used the Empire in its redevelopment and creation of the new multiplex on 42nd St. in NYC. Yet, the Empire Theater in Kansas City, which sits four blocks from the AMC headquarters here, sat empty and rotting for since 1986. AMC had owned the Empire here in KC at one time.

Now that the Empire is being restored as part of the new entertainment district being developed here by Cordish, AMC still has no part in the saving of the Empire. All the new residents of renovated downtown buildings constantly dream of having a movie theater downtown again. There’s hope that Cordish will bring a new theater to downtown. It won’t be the Empire, since it’s being restored for use as a live music venue. AMC is willing to spend millions salvaging an old theater in NYC, but hasn’t done the same in its hometown. Especially sad since AMC executives have to drive by the Empire every day.

42ndStreetMemories on January 1, 2005 at 5:17 pm

Thanks, kids. I just ordered both of them from my library down here in the jngle. I’ll do a book report when I’m done. I’ll try some Google searches on the bookers. The quest continues! Jerry the K 42nd Street Memories

YMike on January 1, 2005 at 2:46 pm

Jerry the K: I believe the book you are looking for is called “Lost Broadway Theatres” It is availble in both Hard And Soft cover versions. I have seen it in many NYC library branches. It has many exterior and interior photos of Broadway area theatres going back to the turn of the century.

42ndStreetMemories on January 1, 2005 at 1:55 pm

Robb, thanks. There are plenty of books dealing with the history of 42nd St.(“Down 42nd Street”, “Ghosts of 42nd St”, etc. They usually focus on the early days, the “porn” days and the clean-up. I guess my time there in the 50s-60s was too boring. I’m really looking for a database of the booking agents who programmed the films on the Deuce. Good luck, eh? Jerry 42nd Street Memories

RobbKCity on January 1, 2005 at 1:43 am

Jerry the K: I know for a fact that a book exists that gives the history of most of the existing and lost theaters in the Broadway theatre district. I don’t know the name of the book offhand, but if you do a search of public libraries, you are sure to come across it. I found it in the Kansas City Public Library. It’s an older book.

42ndStreetMemories on December 30, 2004 at 11:00 pm

saps, funny that you say that. I saw Psycho for the first time at the New Amsterdam when it was re-released in ‘64 with Stalag 17. And the guy in front of us must have been in the Empire with you. He was talking to himself, holding a hankerchief over his face, laughing like it was a home movie of his brother and mother. Probably was.
Jerry the K 42nd Street Memories

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 30, 2004 at 10:50 pm

>>All that’s left is the front facade. a shame
posted by D on Jul 25, 2004 at 6:53pm

The entire theater was restored: Walls, balconies, murals, proscenium arch; and is now used as the lobby of the new AMC Empire 25.

I agree about the eclectic billing here. Once in the early 1980’s the second or third feature was Hitchcock’s Psycho from 20 years earlier. At a rock-bottom evening price of 85 cents, who could resist going in. It was the first time I’d seen Psycho on the big screen, and what a setting! I think half of Norman Bate’s family was in the audience. We all go a little mad sometimes, no doubt.

42ndStreetMemories on December 30, 2004 at 1:48 pm

Is there any way to retrieve the bookings information on the 42nd Street Theaters, back in the 50s-60s, especially the Empire, Anco, Times Square, Victory, Liberty? I went through the NY Times microfiche at the library and found some mention of the more mainstream New Amsterdam, Lyric, Harris, Selwyn but nothing on the others. Thanks for any info. Jerry 42nd Street Memories

RobbKCity on October 31, 2004 at 8:06 am

I saw the Empire when it was being moved down the street on the rails. It was an incredible feat. I remember reading ahead of time that they were planning to do this as part of the redevelopment of 42nd Street, and couldn’t believe they were attempting it. I remember thinking at the time why didn’t they just leave the remaining portion of the Empire where it was and build around it in that location? Why was it necessary to move it 200 ft. west? It just seemed to me that they could have built the multiplex at the original location, and placed the Madame T’s Wax Museum on the west side of the multiplex instead of the east side.

I’m glad they did though, because—at the very least—it saved a portion of the old theater. I think the good will to preserve theaters on 42nd Street had been used up by the time the Empire was moved. The New Amsterdam up the street was undergoing an extensive restoration by Disney, and the Ford Center on the north side of the street had taken two old theaters and did a re-adaptive use, but saved the front facade. Next door to it, the New Victory Theater had been restored.

Quite frankly, I’m very surprised that The New Amsterdam; the New Victory; the old part of the Ford Center (can’t think of the name of the original theater(s)); and the Empire didn’t all get torn down in one fell swoop. I had lived in the East Village just prior to redevelopment, and two old theaters in my neighborhood had been demolished. One was the old Fillmore East (which I think had been a movie theater or Jewish playhouse earlier). The other one was along 13th Street near Second or Third Avenue if I recall. At the same time, the Palladium on E. 14th St. was demolished. Now, that was a big shock to me, because I thought the Palladium would be saved. I know it had been a nightclub and concert venue for years, but had originally been a movie theater?

I was torn about the 42nd St. redevelopment too. Part of me liked the seediness of the street. One got a trill just walking down it late at night. However, it is in one of the primary tourist areas of the city, and having it in that condition reflected badly on the city. I’m just so glad the New Amsterdam got restored. I would have hated to lose that marquee.

Divinity on October 21, 2004 at 2:22 am

It is just a sad case of the casual American experience. Movie theaters have become common places where oppulent ornamentation is not important anymore and people certainly do not dress for the occasion anymore. I have often seen people visit theaters in t-shirts. Even in movie palaces of all places. Some people say that modernism is sleek and sophisticated. The reality is that it is cheap and easy to accomplish. What is the solution? Do not go to unadorned multiplexes and always wear something in good taste out of respect for a movie palace.

I have seen the AMC and I think that more of the interior could have been preserved. They certainly didn’t replace the fabric that lined the walls.

umbaba on July 26, 2004 at 1:33 pm

and considering the presentation of films today, the multiplexes are where it’s at. No more 70MM, premieres where the public can go to, roadshow engagements….just crap…can you imagine a 70MM presentation of Catwoman????

sdoerr on July 26, 2004 at 12:54 pm

yes, 1 screen theaters are not profitable as much as multiplexs. Plus now people are into their surround sound, stadium seats and could care less.

Bway on July 26, 2004 at 12:57 am

There is no way a company can make money on a one screen theater like that anymore with all the multiplexes around unfortunately.
It’s not just the fascade that is left, the entire main auditorium still exists as the “lobby” of the AMC.

Bigdom78987 on July 25, 2004 at 11:53 pm

All that’s left is the front facade. a shame

Bigdom78987 on July 25, 2004 at 11:52 pm

Megaplexes are stupid!

Bigdom78987 on July 25, 2004 at 11:50 pm

Sure its better than being torn down but they should build stuff like they used to. Why can’t they just build nice stuff any more. Just compare your average building from the 20s to your average building now. The Empire should have been redone as a nice one auditorium theatre with nice decor and the old stuff. Why can’t they do that anymore?

42ndStreetMemories on July 17, 2004 at 10:59 pm

The old Empire of the 50s & 60s had some of the most creative programming on The Deuce. i saw my first Chaplin there, Tillie’s Punctured Romance on a double bill with a Francis the Talking Mule movie. Of course, like most of 42nd, the double bills were usually standard action fare. Double bills of films that had been on the bottom of the bill at first run theaters. Tarawa Beachhead, Timbuktu, The Marauders come to mind. Great escape for a 10 year old kid when the Times Square theater across the street had westerns that I’d already seen. The Deuce’s sub-run theaters didn’t advertise (kept the admissions low), so it was exciting to come up the subway steps and start to peruse the marquees. A kid in a candy shop. Jerry the K

Camden on July 17, 2004 at 10:33 pm

It’s quite a hybrid, all right, and it is fantasitc that they used the old theatre for the lobby instead of tearing it down. It is beautiful, and kind of dreamlike and surreal to have those escalators zigzagging through it, now that you’ve all mentioned it. You can’t stand in line there without gawking at the ceiling and scratching your head over its wonderful flamboyance. In a more sensible world, of course Vincent’s suggestions about preserving the old theatres intact would be the obvious choice, but as we know, there’s not much that’s sensible in this irrational world beyond flailing around trying to stay afloat. At least it’s not as bad as China, where almost every single thing that is old is being destroyed and replaced with truly obnoxious buildings. Oh, how their future generations will loathe them for it.


Bway on July 17, 2004 at 8:09 pm

I meant “All the escalators are in the originalauditorium”.They zig-zap through the old auditorium.

Bway on July 17, 2004 at 8:08 pm

Look up. All the escalators are in the original lobby. Some escalators even go through the procenium arch of the old theater, almost near the ceiling. The former balonies are all the various levels of the “lobby”.

umbaba on July 17, 2004 at 2:22 pm

I never realized that the original auditorium was used as the lobby. It just seems like a standard lobby. So, when you walk in, to the ticket booth, are you waling towards the original screen area??

VincentParisi on July 16, 2004 at 11:09 pm

Well yes. But think if the city powers that be instead had restored the entire block retaining all the original facades getting sponserships for each individual theater and used some imagination.
Both the Met and the City opera could have used theaters for smaller Mozart and the like. Why does anything play in the Gershwin(Frank Rich called it George and Ira’s boobie prize)or the Minskoff? They’re architectural monstrosities.
This would have maintained an entire historic neighborhood and would have been the jewel in the crown for the city.
The city tore down Penn Station again. Which it never seems tired of doing.

telliott on July 16, 2004 at 9:47 pm

Just consider yourselves lucky in New York that AMC had the imagination to do this. Here in Toronto there are so many old theatres they could have done this to but instead just demolished them. Especially our old beloved University theatre, the facade is still there but now it’s a Pottery Barn. Oh well, that’s progress.

Bway on July 16, 2004 at 9:37 pm

The Empire will never be a theater again, but the auditorium is alive and well as the loppy of the plex. An escalator even goes through the old procenium arch.

br91975 on July 16, 2004 at 4:01 pm

The original auditorium wasn’t demolished; it serves as the lobby for the megaplex that surrounds it.