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.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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 78 comments)

sasheegm on January 30, 2007 at 12:18 pm

The old Gate Cars——Sure——Always——-I go to subway.org just to see photos of the old Gate cars, the BMT standards & the old Tin Lizzy Muti’s that you could walk from car to car—but to me the fastest cars were the Lexington Ave IRT Subway that went up to the Bronx and Yankee Stadium—-I was the only Yankee Fan on my block and boy did I get into fights with Dodger fans——Iwent to Ebbets Field more often since its was closer—Took the Gate Car to Thompkins and then the Bus-Trolley to the field——No AC, but fresh air!– I was lucky to see DiMaggio when I was 10 years old, then Mantle, Snider & Mays—The Polo Grounds was a dump compared to the other two parks—I worked after school at 10 years old to help out, [plus so I could do things like go to the movies and games——Joe

Bway on February 22, 2009 at 10:15 am

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 8:07 am

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 10:11 am

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 3:02 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 8:13 am

Thanks for the information!

jflundy on September 15, 2009 at 5:21 pm

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

DavidZornig on December 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

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

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