Broadway & 40th / New York City / 1892-1953
New York Daily News / April 3, 1955 (pg187)
Charles Frohman hired architect J. B. McElfatrick to design the Empire Theatre; it was the first of the seven theatres
designed by McElfatrick. The Empire was the first theatre to have electricity and was said to be thoroughly fireproof.
The building was the only stock theatre at that time to be on the ground floor and to have no steps entering from the street.
On December 2, 1892, it was reported in the New York Times that the building had been completed and was in the hands
of the plasterers and decorators. The Empire Theatre opened in 1893 with a performance of The Girl I Left Behind Me by David Belasco.
The Empire continued to present both original plays and revivals, including the English premiere of The Threepenny Opera in 1933,
until 1953. Its final show, The Time of the Cuckoo, closed May 30, 1953 after 263 performances. In the same month, the
theatre hosted a benefit celebrating the sixty-year history of the Empire.
After the theatre's closure and before its demolition, Robert Porterfield salvaged many of its interior furnishings for use at the
Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. Items removed by Porterfield included seats, paintings, lighting fixtures, and a lighting control
system. Some of the decorations and seating that Porterfield transported are still in use at the Barter today.
Ownership and management
Office of Charles Frohman at the Empire Theatre
Frank Sanger and Al Hayman were the owners and developers of the uptown vacant lot that became the Empire Theatre.
Hayman suggested that theatre producer Charles Frohman have
the Empire Theatre built there, believing everything theatrical was moving uptown at the time.
The original lessees were listed as Charles Frohman and his partner William Harris of the firm Rich & Harris who were set to
take possession of the building on January 23, 1893 which was also set to be the theatre's opening night.
The Empire Theatre's business manager was Thomas F. Shea for over 20 years from its opening till the death of Charles Frohman.
After Frohman died on the RMS Lusitania in 1915, Al Hayman took over ownership of the Empire Theatre.
The theatre was sold in 1948 to the Astor estate; in 1953 it was announced that the building would be torn down to make way for an office tower.
- The New York Age / February 25, 1933 (pg.7) -
- (Ed Sullivan's column) New York Daily News / May 2, 1943 (pg.212) -
New York Daily News / March 1, 1955 (pg.417) -
New York Daily News / January 9, 1955 (pg.14) -
- Crowds line the streets in 1936 for tickets to see Charles Drew in "Hamlet." -
Programs available from this theatre:
Alice Sit By the Fire (1911)
Zander the Great (1923)