Empire Theater

422 Barton Street E,
Hamilton, ON L8L 2Y6

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Additional Info

Architects: Bernard Herman Prack

Functions: Banquet Hall

Styles: Beaux-Arts

Nearby Theaters

Ext 2008 b

This was a 600-seat single screen auditorium that still stands today as the Essence Banquet Centre on the corner of Barton Street East and Leeming Avenue.

The Empire Theater was opened by October 1916 by Hamilton Theatre magnate Fred Guest who also owned four other cinema’s locally (The Playhouse, The Main, The Strand and his flagship The Delta), as well as one other (The Stanley Theatre) in Vancouver BC. Ironically the only one still intact is the cinema (now an arts centre) in BC. The Empire Theater was remodeled in December 1930 when a balcony was added which increased the seating capacity to 1,000. In the late-1960’s the space was twinned, the seats removed, and the floor flattened. It remains as a Banquet Hall for weddings and other events.

Contributed by Brian Morton

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Brian Morton
Brian Morton on February 28, 2008 at 7:38 pm

A little more info. This was also known as the Italia Cinema from 1938 to 1969 when it closed.

There are photos at the Ont Archives of the exterior/interior.

TivFan on May 1, 2012 at 2:43 pm

See an exterior photo of the Empire, as part of John Sebert’s “Glamorous Ghosts” at: www.hamiltonmagazine.com/sitepages/?aid. This was the first time I had seen a shot of this place. Comparing the photo and the street view, you can see the upper windows are gone and the railing (or decoration?) has been added to the roof edge.
I went to a yard sale in this neighborhood, and I got talking to a guy selling there, and I mentioned the Empire and he told me that the projection equipment was still in the building. It’s possible that it was too cumbersome to remove or was kept as a ‘novelty’. I don’t know if this is true, I’ve never checked…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2021 at 12:15 am

Fred Guest’s Empire Theatre on Barton Street East was mentioned, along with his Strand Theatre, in the October 14, 1916 issue of Moving Picture World.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 20, 2021 at 2:09 pm

The papers of architect Bernard Herman Prack list a project for Fred Guest at the Empire Theatre in 1922. The specifics of the project are not mentioned. !922 was the same year Prack drew the plans for Guest’s Delta Theatre.

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