1521 Vine Street,
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Opened in 1909 as a silent movie house by Henry Levy, who also owned the Liberty Theater in Northside and the Imperial Theater in Mohawk. In 1936 the Empire Theater received an Art Deco style remodeling. The theater was closed in the 1960’s and never reopened.
In 2002, LaShawn Pettus-Brown, a pro basketball player in Japan and a Cincinnati native, announced plans to purchase the Empire Theater and give the theater a $900,000 makeover. Pettus-Brown, who is a concert promoter, then run the former movie theater as a venue for comedy, concerts, and other events.
However, not long after receiving a $184,000 loan from the City of Cincinnati, Pettus-Brown disappeared, leaving the Empire Theater to decline until the theater’s roof collapsed — ending all chances of a restoration.
Wanted by the FBI, the fugitive evaded authorities for several months, but was eventually undone by a prospective date who “Googled” Pettus-Brown and discovered his true identity. Pettus-Brown is now in policy custody and is expected to charged with wire fraud.
Not long after the roof collapsed, the Empire Theater was razed in July 2003 and is now a vacant lot.
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