Empress Theatre

535 2nd Avenue,
Fairbanks, AK 99701

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1950's photo with the Empress Theatre on the right. Courtesy of Retro Pictures Facebook page.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built for “Cap” Lathrop in 1927 by archictect Paul G. Carlson, the 670-seat Empress Theatre was the first Fairbanks structure built with concrete, which many thought would not hold up through the frigid Alaskan winters.

Besides movies, the Empress Theatre featured live stage shows, legitimate theater, and concerts. In the early-1950’s, the theater was heavily modernized by the architectural firm Calson, Eley, Grevstad with bold new decor including a large, neon-lit marquee.

In 1961, the Empress Theatre, which was a center for Fairbanks nightlife for decades, was closed.

The former theater today serves as a shopping center, called the Co-Op Plaza, with its facade restored to it’s simple 1920’s appearance, the garish 1950’s marquee is long since removed.

The Empress Theatre is just down Second Avenue from the Lacey Street Theatre, an Art Deco style gem that now houses the Fairbanks Ice Museum.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 22, 2005 at 10:21 am

Here is a photo of Co-Op Plaza (former Empress Theater).

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on November 28, 2005 at 9:53 am

This website has a photo of the Empress Theater and some background on it.

kencmcintyre on September 22, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Status should be closed, I think. Here is an interior photo from 1927:

kencmcintyre on September 22, 2006 at 2:22 pm

Here is a photo from the late 1940s:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 4, 2006 at 4:41 am

Here is a recent photo of the former Empress theater building.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 28, 2007 at 8:03 am

This is a January 14, 2007 article about the Empress Theater.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 4, 2007 at 7:23 pm

A Kimball theater organ size 2/7 was installed in the Empress Theater in 1927.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2010 at 11:22 am

This article on the Empress, with photos, appeared in Boxoffice magazine on January 3, 1953:
View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

Here is an updated link to the 1953 Boxoffice article about the Empress Theatre.

Paul G. Carlson was not the original architect of the 1927 Empress. He was born in 1912, and received his degree in architecture from the University of Washington in 1935. Partners Barney Grevstad and Frederick R. Eley were about the same age.

Carlson was an associate in the office of theater architect Bjarne Moe from 1935 to 1941, and participated in the design of the Liberty Theatre at Ellensburg, Washington and the second Green Lake Theatre in Seattle, both built in 1937.

Frederick R. Eley was the son of Fred H. Eley, a prominent architect in Santa Ana, California, in the early 20th century.

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