Empire Theater

214 Montgomery Street,
Montgomery, AL 36104

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The Empire Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built in 1914, this historic cinema was demolished in August 1997, only two months before a hearing on its historical status.

The Empire Theatre is best known as the site where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. It was also the first venue Hank Williams, Sr. peformed in. In the 1940’s it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc. through their subsidiary Wilbey-Kincey. By 1975, it was operated by Martin Theatres

Demolition of the theater in 1997 made way for the Rosa Parks Memorial Library.

Contributed by Martin Mccaffery

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

michaelmanos
michaelmanos on December 15, 2002 at 10:31 am

I worked at the Empire Theater in Montgomery from 1961 thru 1964 as an usher. Mr. Bicky Covey was the manager. I sat the first black patrons in this theater in 1964. This was a very historic moment in the civil rights movement in Montgomery. I have always had wonderful memories of this theater, the people who worked there, and the movies I saw.

thegreev
thegreev on September 15, 2006 at 7:52 am

I was the manager of the Empire in 1969-1970, and it remains one of the favorites of my 30 year theatre management career. Remodeled into its final configuration in 1956, (it re-opened with John Wayne in “The Conqueror”), it had no balcony… rare for theatres of that era; all seats (776 of them) were on a single floor. I assumed management duties when the theatre was sold to Martin Theatres, and arrived during the roadshow engagement of “Funny Girl,” which played a total of 12 weeks.

I’m saddened that it’s gone; while it certainly wasn’t the most ornate of the movie palaces, seeing a film there was pure joy.

thegreev
thegreev on September 16, 2006 at 4:28 pm

A terrific picture of the Empire is here:

View link

thegreev
thegreev on September 17, 2006 at 2:38 pm

For a picture of the Empire’s auditorium, click below:
View link

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 29, 2007 at 6:49 pm

In 1963, the Empire was part of the R.M. Kennedy theater circuit, headquartered in Birmingham. Kennedy also operated the Jasper in the city of Jasper and the Druid in Tuscaloosa. Kennedy theaters in Tennessee were the Bonnie Kate and Capitol in Elizabethtown and the Family Drive-In in Johnson City. Kennedy also operated the Center, Skyline Drive-In and South Drive-In in Greensboro, North Carolina.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on February 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Artist Robert Cottingham has painted nine large pictures of this theater’s marquee in different media based on photographs he took of it in 1996: View link.

Mike Goodson
Mike Goodson on August 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Here is a photo I made shortly before the historic theater was razed.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 15, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Described in this 1917 trade article: archive

PhoenixBBS
PhoenixBBS on November 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

I was an usher at the Empire Theatre in 1954 and 1955. I also changed the marque. Starting salary was $0.40/hr!

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