Empire Theatre

10 Ralph Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Showing 1 - 25 of 80 comments

Bway on April 16, 2018 at 11:21 am

That would be wonderful to see!

Willburg145 on April 15, 2018 at 5:00 pm

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.

daveyb on June 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm

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?

DavidZornig on December 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm

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

jflundy on September 15, 2009 at 5:21 pm

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

Bway on August 19, 2009 at 8:13 am

Thanks for the information!

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 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.

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 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

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

jflundy on January 30, 2007 at 11:52 am


Thanks for your memories. Those converible cars were great in the warm weather. As you say, they were widely used on the Canarsie shuttle during WW2 and into summer of 1946. Did you ever ride the convertible L cars on Myrtle Avenue and Lexington lines ? As a kid I used to ride back and forth from Fresh Pond Road to Bridge Street just to cool off. In the photo I don’t see the Lexington L Tower on Broadway. I can’t recall if it was visible from this angle but I think it would be partially. If so, that would also date photo after December 1950 and as people are in shirts, except for a couple of guys in wind breakers, that would put date in late spring 1951.

sasheegm on January 30, 2007 at 11:05 am

Very interesting J.F…….I remember going to the Empire with my Father at night, and they always had a serial playing during the week——-also taking the Trolley at the end of the Canarsie Line which would go right down to the pier where we went crabbing————They had the bars on them in Summer and went right through reeds————I could smell those Soft Shell Crabs cooking now as the Trolley would get closer to the pier————I am 65 and was born on Bushwick Ave—-actually the Maternity Hospital on Bushwick ave, which later became a General Hospital—-I lived on Willoughby Ave between Central & Evergreen from 1946 until 1959 when we moved to Long Island——Thanks for all the info and memories-I was born 1941—Joe

jflundy on January 30, 2007 at 10:25 am

Hello Joe..
The Empire and other Brandt run theaters would some times show reissues of movies several years old as an economy measure. This theater was not making big bucks and some times old movies that appealed to the neighborhood crowd would draw better than what a newer pair of films in current release near the end of their loop around the distribution chain in the city. The two movies on the marquee have different release dates in the 40’s. The were probably packaged as reissues for the Brandt,and, or also the Interboro circuits.

The trolley in the picture, 4550, was an old convertible car painted in brown. Brown was the color of service cars. This was a special run and not a regular route run.The cars of this type were withdrawn after WW2 and most were scrapped. Some continued in use as service cars for towing, salting and breaking ice in tracks and switches. They were very heavy and would not derail as easily as newer cars.
The last 20 years of the Ralph-Rockaway line, which 4550 is signed for, the 8000 class cars dating from the mid-20’s were usually assigned to this route.

The 4550 was purchased by a group of trolley fans and cleaned up and painted, with missing parts restored by the shop crews of the Board of Transportation for the fans to run special charters before it was sold to them and moved to a museum before the end of all the trolleys.

I would guess that the date is May 27, 1951, the last day of service for most conventional trolleys in Brooklyn. You can see the way people are gathered around, looking at the car, that it is something unusual. Also, the girl in the dungarees is dressed early 1950’s with cuffs rolled up.

sasheegm on January 30, 2007 at 9:12 am

Hello J.F. Lundy: Very nice photo of the Empire & my old neighborhood———Cry of the City with Victor Mature and Richard Conte was released in 1948——-Since the Empire showed 2nd and third run films, the photo is either from that year of later———-Thats the Jamiaca Ave El in the background, and if my memory serves me right, that was the old Ralph Ave Trolley…….and with that many people at the intersection, my guess is that the photo was taken on a weekend————Thanks for supplying the photo———I only wish somebody could come up with a photo of the old Rogers Theater which was on Broadway at one end of the Flushing St El Station———Thanks for the memories——-Joe From Florida

jflundy on January 30, 2007 at 8:15 am

Here is a link to a photo maentioned above in an earlier posting that is no longer available at listed URL:


It shows Empire as looked in 40’s and 50’s.

PKoch on September 6, 2006 at 9:31 am

That’s good to know, Bway. Thanks.

Bway on September 6, 2006 at 8:14 am

Probably, or at least the most “pleasant” anyway. Once school lets out, even the best of neighborhoods can be miserable to walk around in, and of course that is more pronounced in not as nice neighborhoods.
Personally, I have driven through Bushwick, even in the evening, 9:00, 10:00, and also found it to be fine. If I am visiting people I know in Ridgewood yet, I often take the “long way” back from Ridgewood to the JR Parkway, via Bushwick Ave, usually stopping at the White Castle at Gates and Wyckoff….or the Mc Donalds near the old RKO Bushwick if I didn’t eat yet….

PKoch on September 6, 2006 at 4:02 am

I am glad to read that, Bway. I would think the safest time of day in Bushwick is from sunup to 3 p.m.

Bway on September 5, 2006 at 2:11 pm

I have walked that area quite often, and really have no problem with the area anymore…..it’s come a long way in the last 10 years, and definitely the last 20…..
As long as you don’t walk around with a camera around your neck, like a “tourist”, you should be fine. I have become quite stealth in order to take photos. And NEVER take photos directly of people if you can help it. That could cause problems in the best of neighborhoods.
Also, I prefer the mornings to the afternoons, but that’s just me…

PKoch on September 5, 2006 at 7:38 am

KenRoe, I’m glad you feel most at ease around Brooklyn’s Broadway district. Yes, not far from the Empire are the Loew’s Gates and RKO Bushwick, as you are well aware.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 5, 2006 at 7:31 am

PKoch…I feel most at ease wandering around Brooklyn’s Broadway district. In fact that goes for most areas I have ventured into in N.Y.C. in recent years. Being a ‘city’ person I am generally aware of my surroundings. My digital camera is the size of a credit card, so its not too noticable and I usually don’t hang around too long…as I know there’s usually another theatre to ‘discover’ further along the block!

PKoch on September 5, 2006 at 7:13 am

Thanks for posting your photo, KenRoe.

How safe did you feel walking around that area ?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on July 27, 2006 at 11:34 am

Thanks, Ken. I was also perusing the comments here and found Warren’s posting of Sept 2nd, 2004, noting an opening in August of 1903, which seemed to add to the confusion. However, cjdv’s posting seems the most authoritative – and perhaps Warren simply mistyped a “3” instead of an “8”.