Empire Theater

120 W. Main Street,
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

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On May 27, 1906, gay fanfare surrounded grand opening ceremonies for the new Empire Vaudeville Theater, a class act house that promised the best in stage entertainment.

A sweeping arched entryway was the focal point for the iron facade of the five story office structure in which the Empire Theater was situated. Interior detailing was of Art Nouveau styling, with plaster fruited vines that climbed across a barrel vaulted lobby. A shallow shelf balcony ran across auditorium rear, but the majority of the 1100 seats were ground floor level in a wide auditorium, framed in a series of exposed “tree branch” iron arches that vaulted over orchestra sections. These intertwined iron branches bore orange, red, and yellow light bulb fruit. Embroidered wisteria enhanced emerald-green valour stage drapery that dressed a steeply arched, plaster vined proscenium.

During the autumn of 1907 the Empire became a movie/vaude combo house, but by January, 1908, large display ads began touting “Something New! Something Different! ~ NO MOVING PICTURES!!!~”

By mid-1910 the Empire had slid down into a second run movie house that no longer bothered to advertise. Then, after the holiday season of 1912, the owner converted the Empire auditorium into what became Oklahoma City’s fanciest pool hall. Rechristend the Century Billiards Parlor, this thinly disguised gambling casino lasted up to the time the building was razed in 1971.

Contributed by Jeff Chapman

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

seymourcox
seymourcox on March 31, 2007 at 5:49 pm

Here is a Library of Congress 1910 panaramic view of downtown Oklahoma City. Near photo center can be seen the Empire Theatre. Directly behind the Empire sits the stagehouse of the Folly Theatre. Several other theatres can be seen in this image, but one would have to be extremely familiar with OKC to be able to spot them all-
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In 1919 the Criterion Theatre would be built this side of the Empire.

seymourcox
seymourcox on March 31, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Here is a 1940’s snapshot of the former Empire after conversion to the Century Pool- Billiard-Snooker Parlor. Criterion Theatre is seen in background.
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raybradley
raybradley on April 9, 2007 at 9:39 am

Take this express line to the L of C 1910 image. Once photo downloads click on it again for supersize vew,
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missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on May 21, 2007 at 4:06 pm

In the 6/5/40 Criterion Theatre photo can be seen the former Empire Theatre, photo right.
Enter word ‘theatre’, then enter to see image,
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seymourcox
seymourcox on July 22, 2007 at 12:44 pm

From the Oklahoma County Tax Assessor Office comes this 1930s postcard view of the former Empire Theatre (phot left). Partial view of the Criterion Theatre can also be made out.
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One note of interest; in John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath”, this is the street corner where the Jode’s truck turns onto when they set out for California.

Rodney
Rodney on April 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm

This site has a vintage image of the former Empire Theater;
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seymourcox
seymourcox on February 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm

In this 1929 shot, the arched entrance to the former Empire Theater can be seen right of the Criterion Theatre.
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seymourcox
seymourcox on February 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm

… And here is a 1945 photo with a good view of the former Empire Theatre, converted into the Playhouse Arcade.
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missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on April 3, 2011 at 1:53 am

Former Empire Theatre mid-1920’s after conversion to Harris Goar Co.
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