Empire Theatre

10 Ralph Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Circa 1950 photo courtesy of Al Ponte's Time Machine - New York Facebook page.

The Empire Theatre opened on August 24, 1908 with “The Star Show Girls”. It was located in the Eastern District of Brooklyn, close to the Bushwick Theatre. It featured low vaudeville and by 1910 was a burlesque house.

Other theaters featuring burlesque in the World War I period along with the Empire Theatre were the Gayety Theatre at Broadway and Throop Avenue, the Star Theatre at Jay Street near Fulton Street, and the original Casino Theatre at Flatbush Avenue and State Street.

All these theaters would show movies at times. After Mayor LaGuardia closed the burlesque shows, the Empire Theatre was showing double features as a neighborhood house after they had played the nearby RKO Bushwick Theatre and Loew’s Gates Theatre. It may have switched before the ban, does any one know?

It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2 manual 8 ranks theatre organ in September 1927, but this was removed in 1931. The Empire Theatre was closed in 1953, and was served by the Broadway trolleys as well as the Ralph Rockaway Car line and the “El”.

Contributed by J.F. Lundy

Recent comments (view all 80 comments)

Bway on February 22, 2009 at 6:15 pm

There’s a wonderful photo of the Empire on brooklynpix.com
I wonder if the scene may be of a visit from one of the stars in the movie, there seems to be a large amount of people waiting under the marquee and looking in one direction, perhaps looking at a star arriving or something to that effect. Also some people with cameras. I can’t explain why everyone would be there looking in the same direction otherwise:

View link

PeterKoch on February 23, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Thanks, Joe From Florida, for posting your Bklyn memories.

Thanks, Jayar1 and Bway for the links.

Bway, that’s a great shot of the Empire. I’ve seen it before.

Bway on April 19, 2009 at 6:11 pm

Does anyone know of any historic exterior photos of what the building used to look like? I have seen marquee shots, but was wondering about the rest of the building. Unfortunately, it’s quite ugly architectually today, with an ugly stucco exterior.

jflundy on August 13, 2009 at 11:02 pm

They are looking at an old 4500 convertible trolley on a fan trip. At this point there was a switchback where double end cars could change direction. It dated from a time when people comuting to and from the City could ride the EL from Park Row in downtown Manhattan and take the Lexington Ave. EL to Broadway, then board the Cars on Ralph and homeward. The Cars coming down Broadway from Williamsburg were already loaded during the rush hour and so extra Cars from Canardie Depot were run up the line, loaded and switched back by the Empire Theater. A starter over saw the operation and helped pre collect fares with a portable fare box on the street at the normal exit doors to speed up the operation.

Bway on August 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Thanks for the information!

jflundy on September 16, 2009 at 1:21 am

My posting, two comments up, should read Canarsie Depot, not Canardie.
Sorry for the typo.

DavidZornig on December 22, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Circa 1950 photo added courtesy of Al Ponte’s Time Machine – New York Facebook page.

daveyb on June 21, 2015 at 2:20 am

Hi – I just learned that my great grandfather helped build this theatre. He was a cabinet maker and built extraordinarily ornate tables, so I would guess he was involved with some of the finishing/artwork kind of stuff. Is there a way to find out anything about that?

Willburg145 on April 16, 2018 at 1:00 am

I am going to try and visit the church that calls this building home. I want to take pictures of the interior to post them here. I guess I should first ask permission from the pastor.

Bway on April 16, 2018 at 7:21 pm

That would be wonderful to see!

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