The Empire Theatre was designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb and opened in 1912 as the Eltinge 42nd Street Theatre, named for Julian Eltinge, the top female impersonator of the American stage. The Eltinge became the setting for decades of legitimate theater and burlesque. Abbott and Costello debuted here as part of the Eltinge Follies in 1935.
Converted into a movie theater in 1942 first as the Laffmovie, and later renamed the Empire, the theater finally closed, seemingly for good, in the mid-1980s.
Following the renaissance of 42nd Street, AMC decided to make the entire former Empire Theatre the lobby of its new new flagship 25-screen megaplex. Located just west of Times Square, this immaculate multi-level multiplex is a prime example of theater renovation and reuse.
The lobby of this luxurious, five-level theater has been built inside the shell of the old Empire Theater. In order to build the massive multi-screen complex, the Empire was lifted up and moved down the street to its present location. Once that massive job was completed, a new 25 screen theater was built around it.
The historic facade has been left largely intact, while a new marquee has been added. Also preserved and restored is a beautiful mural which can be seen just above the box office.
The former balconies were reopened as the Times Square Cafe.