Empire Theatre

pictures, photos, facts and information on Empire Theatre (Liverpool)

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What is now Empire Theatre was established in October 1866 as The Prince of Wales Theatre and Opera house on Lime street. The first performance was opera Faust. It was lit by gas light and all the stage machinery was controlled by steam power. The theatre was renamed within a year to Alexandra Theatre and Opera House probably due to the fact that Prince of Wales got married to Princess Alexandra. Theatre played variety of shows, mainly operas. It became famous and many famous people traveled to Liverpool just to appear in the theatre. However, towards the end of the century the theatre started to have financial problems and in 1895 it was bought by Moss Empires company. The name changed again (to present Empire Theatre). The building was refurbished by well-known architect Frank Matcham. The opening show was Cinderella.

The theatre stayed opened also during the World War I. However, it was pulled down after the war, in early1920s. Moss Empire decided that the theatre was not big enough and they built completely new one. This was based on an American design and opened in March 1925. It was most up-to-date theatre in the provinces, with the widest auditorium in Europe. It is one of the two largest tier theatres in the country with the seating capacity of 2,381. The theatre was opened with a revue Better Days.

Empire Theatre kept entertaining people also during the World War II. It was partly damaged by an incendiary bomb, which came through the roof and set one of the boxes on fire, but it was nothing when compared with the damage that was caused to the museum and art gallery just across the street.

In 1950s stars such as Julie Andrews, Laurel and Hardy and Frankie Vaughn flocked to the theatre. In 1960s the character of the theatre changed and it started to host mostly concerts (Frank Sinatra, The Beatles).

The existence of the theatre was uncertain twice in 1980s (Moss Empire sold it to Merseyside County Council and in 1986 when it stopped existing the theatre was handed over to Liverpool City Council). The theatre started to be managed by Apollo Leisure company. It was closed in 1998 for five months for phase one of a major refurbishment. In 2002 phase two of our redevelopment was completed, a new building was added. It is attached to the theatre by a glass atrium and it contains a new box office and three floors of multi-function space that can be used for events, parties, weddings, conferences and performances.
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