AMC Empire 25
234 W. 42nd Street,
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Originally located at 236 W. 42nd Street. The Empire Theatre was the eighth theatre on W. 42nd Street and was built for producer Al H. Woods who chose architect Thomas W. Lamb to design the theatre. It was opened on September 11, 1912 with the melodrama “Within the Law” as the 880-seat Eltinge 42nd Street Theatre. Seating was provided in orchestra, two balconies and eight boxes. Named for Julian Eltinge, the top female impersonator of the American stage, who was Woods star performer. Julian Eltinge never played in the theatre named after him. The opening attraction at the theatre was a huge success, playing for 541 performances. Other hits include John Barrymore in “The Yellow Ticket”, “The Song of Songs”, “Fair and Warmer”, “Up in Mabel’s Room”, “The Girl in the Limousine” and “Ladies Night”. “Blackbirds of 1928” was another hit. Laurence Olivier in “Murder on the Second Floor” only managed to play for 45 performances in 1929. Alice Brady & Clark Gable in “Love, Honor and Betray” played in 1930 to be followed by its final legit production “First Night” presented in 1931 for 88 performances. It then reopened as the Eltinge Burlesque Theatre, featuring burlesque & ‘talkies’. It was later renamed Empire Theatre.
Converted into a movie theatre in summer of 1942, first as the 759-seat Laffmovie Theatre screening short comedy movies and cartoons. That lasted until 1953 when it was renamed the Empire Theatre again and returned to feature movies. The theatre finally closed, seemingly for good, in the mid-1980’s.
Following the renaissance of W. 42nd Street, AMC decided to make the entire former Empire Theatre the lobby of its new new flagship 25-screen megaplex. Located just west of Times Square, this immaculate multi-level multiplex is a prime example of theatre renovation and reuse.
The lobby of this luxurious, five-level theatre has been built inside the shell of the old Empire Theatre. On March 1, 1998 in order to build the massive multi-screen complex, the Empire Theatre was lifted up and moved down the street (all 3,700 tons of it) to its present location. Once that massive job was completed, a new 25-screen theatre was built around it and contained 4,916 seats. The multiplex was designed by the architecural firm Beyer Blinder Belle, and opened April 21, 2000. An IMAX screen opened on September 26, 2008, the first digital IMAX in New York City.
The historic facade has been left largely intact, while a new marquee has been added. Just above the box office is a beautiful mural depicting Julian Eltinge, originally painted by a French artist, Arthur Brounet. The mural was restored by Harriet Irgang, the director of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation. Initially, the former balconies were reopened as the Times Square Cafe, but this has been closed for several years and the space is currently unused.
The megaplex shows first run mainstream and art films.
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