Empress Theater

308 Pierce Street,
Sioux City, IA 51101

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Empress Theater ... Sioux City Iowa

Opened around 1915, in the 1920’s the Empress Theater was located on a busy city street among a bank, a wholesale druggists company and a number of miscellaneous businesses. It had a narrow vertical sign under which was a large circular sign that said "5¢" which possibly indicated five cents general admission.

The Empress Theater had gone from listings by 1926.

Contributed by Billy Holcomb / Don Lewis / Billy Smith

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 30, 2014 at 11:10 pm

This item from the April 18, 1914, issue of The Moving Picture World was probably about the Empress Theatre:

“Sioux City, Ia. — Sealed proposals have been invited by John Biegger, care Colonial Theater, for the erection of the New Empress Theater and office building. Joseph Schwarz is the architect.”
The magazine was a bit late with its announcement. The March 30 issue of the Sioux City Journal had said that ground had been broken for the theater the previous day. It was to be a Sullivan & Considine vaudeville house, and Mr. Biegger expected to convert his Colonial Theatre into a movie house when the Empress opened.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 31, 2014 at 1:56 am

An item in the April 18, 1914, issue of The American Contractor also concerns the Empress Theatre, and gives the address of the site as 410 Jackson Street. Because the addresses are so close, and could easily have been shifted, I’m wondering if the Empress was the same house as the Hollywood Theatre, which we have listed at 420 Jackson Street.

dallasmovietheaters on March 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Was at 308 Pierce not on Jackson

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 30, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Unless more than one Sioux City house used the name Empress, your source must be mistaken, dallasmovietheaters. A “100 Years Ago” feature in the April 13, 2014, issue of the Sioux City Journal (here) cited a 1914 article saying that the cornerstone of the old Central School had been unearthed during demolition of the structure to make way for the new Empress Theatre, which was to be built on the school’s site.

This web page says of the Central School: “In 1868, the city’s first brick schoolhouse was erected on the east side of Jackson Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets.” Thus the Empress must have been in the 400 block of Jackson Street.

I don’t know what was at 308 Pierce Street, but I now wonder if it could have been the Colonial Theatre, the owners of which were building the Empress? It’s possible that correspondence regarding the project was sent under the name Empress Theatre, but using the address of the Colonial, which is probably where the owners of the theaters had their office. We don’t have the Colonial listed at Cinema Treasures, though it was to have been converted into a movie house after the Empress opened. I’ve never found an address for the Colonial.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 30, 2016 at 11:37 pm

Well, the Empress Theatre in the photo currently displayed above was definitely on Pierce Street, not Jackson (my apologies to dallasmovietheaters.) I’ve found another photo of it in a PDF (very large file which also has some photos of the Orpheum.) The photo is dated 1912-1915.

I can think of three possibilities: 1) The name Empress was used on two different theaters, this one and the one on Jackson Street; 2) the theater on Jackson Street was given a different name than the one originally planned; 3) the Jackson Street theater project was never completed.

The name Empress was undoubtedly chosen for the lessees of the Jackson Street project, the Sullivan & Considine circuit, who used that name for most of their houses, and the circuit began to collapse around the time this project was getting underway, so either the second or third possibility is pretty likely.

As even the existence of the 1914 theater on Jackson Street is now moot, we should probably use the address dallasmovietheaters found for the Empress Theatre on this page. Also, the name of the architect of the Jackson Street project should be removed.

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