Empire Theatre

W. 2nd Street,
Chico, CA 95928

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A photograph of Chico’s 2nd Street taken ca.1940 reveals that the Empire Theatre was located almost directly opposite the El Rey Theatre (then known as the American Theatre), which still exists. The Empire’s building appeared to be fairly old at that time and is listed in the 1941 and 1943 editions of Film Daily Yearbook as ‘Closed’, but part of the T & D Jr. Enterprises chain. By the late-1950’s, it had been demolished.

Further information about the Empire Theatre would be appreciated.

Contributed by Joe Vogel

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 21, 2007 at 12:15 am

The Empire was apparently closed when this 1940 photograph was taken. The marquee reads “Always a Good Show, American and Senator Theatres”, and there’s a lot of stuff piled on the sidewalk in front of the theatre. A renovation, perhaps, or maybe evidence that the Empire had been closed for good and the space was being converted to some other use?

A few years after this photo was taken, the larger and fancier American Theatre across the street from the Empire would be gutted by a fire and then rebuilt, minus its upper floor and classical architecture, and be renamed the El Rey, the name it retains today as an occasional live performance venue.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 8, 2008 at 5:57 am

According to a card in the California Index, an item on page 114 of Architect & Engineer, September 1926, mentions a theatre in Chico designed for the Valley Empire Theatres Company by Sacramento architects Starks & Flanders. I wonder if this could refer to the Empire? In the 1940 photo linked above, the building looks too old fashioned to have been built as late as 1926, but the card doesn’t indicate that the house was newly built at that time. If anybody has access to a copy of that issue of A&E, please check it and see what it says.

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