Las Vegas Cinema

479 Wabasha Street,
St. Paul, MN 55107

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Las Vegas Cinema

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1911, the Empress Theatre was then hailed as Saint Paul’s most modern vaudeville house. Its auditorium could seat 1,428 in Neo-Classical style splendor, and cost $300,000 to construct. Its stately, colonnaded façade, in brilliant white terra cotta (to resemble marble) rose two stories over Wabasha Street and was quite a first impression to theater-goers.

Its opening day featured seven vaudeville acts, and something called a “Laugh-O-Scope”, which consisted of several short filmed comedy sketches.

From the decade between 1916 and 1926, the Empress Theatre changed names frequently, becoming the Hippodrome Theatre in 1916, the New Liberty Theatre in 1918, and once more the Empress Theatre from 1921 until 1926.

In 1926, a contest held by the theater’s management at the time, the Finkelstein & Ruben chain, awarded $50 to the person who suggested the winning name, the Lyceum Theatre, which would be the name the theater would be known as the longest.

In the late-1920’s, the Lyceum Theatre switched from movies to legitimate theater and stage shows, but only briefly, as movies were back on the screen a couple of years later.

A major remodeling was carried out at the Lyceum Theatre in 1954, at a cost of nearly $50,000, when Cinemascope equipment was installed, including a new large screen and reduced seating.

The aging Lyceum Theatre underwent a final transformation in 1972, when its name was changed once more to the Las Vegas Cinema, and went from commercial to adult films. Four years later, the theater closed, and was demolished shortly thereafter.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

LAMartin
LAMartin on May 9, 2012 at 10:46 am

The Empress/Lyceum/Las Vegas Theatre was located at 479 North Wabasha Street, a few blocks South of the State Capitol building. The map and photo currently shown on the page are of 479 South Wabasha Street on St. Paul’s West Side.

Drive-In 54
Drive-In 54 on May 9, 2012 at 3:09 pm

I wonder if the owners were Henry and Gene Cartwright who were from Las Vegas, NV. They owned Las Vegas Cinema Inc., which ran a circuit of 19 adult theatres around the country?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 9, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I’ve moved the Street View to the approximate location of the theater in the 400 block of Wabasha Street North, but the pin is still in the wrong place on the map.

The 1913-1914 edition of the Cahn-Leighton Theatrical Guide lists the Empress as a Sullivan & Considine circuit vaudeville house. Given that the great majority of the houses built for that large but short-lived circuit were called the Empress, it’s likely that this theater was built for the circuit, rather than one of the many existing theaters it took over.

If the house was built for Sullivan & Considine, then the architect would most likely have been Lee DeCamp, who designed a large percentage of the circuit’s custom-built theaters.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm

The architectural firm of Buechner & Orth designed the Empress Theatre. It is listed as a 1910 project in the finding aid to the firms papers in the Northwest Architectural Archives at the University of Minnesota, built for owner George Benz & Sons. Sullivan & Considine must have leased the house, so it would not have been designed by Lee DeCamp.

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