Empress Theater

529 Empire Boulevard,
Brooklyn, NY 11225

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Century Theaters, Liggett-Florin Booking Service

Architects: Charles A. Sandblom

Functions: Supermarket

Previous Names: Crown Theater

Nearby Theaters

Empress Theater

The Empress Theater stood on Empire Boulevard not far from the legendary Ebbetts Field. By 1950 it had been renamed Crown Theater and was operated by Liggett-Florin Booking Service. The facade, with its arched window space, is still intact, but the former showplace is now a supermarket.

Contributed by philipgoldberg

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 1, 2006 at 11:20 pm

LOL>>>Lost Memory. Well I have been plodding around the mean streets of NYC again for the past week (another 4 to go!). Glad we have yet another theatre wrapped up ‘in the can’ so to speak.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on July 6, 2006 at 8:55 pm

Here are two recent(May 2006) exterior photographs I took of the Empress/Crown Theatre:

Lost Memory;In the five weeks I was in NYC I visited 175 theatre buildings and took over 400 photographs. Unfortunately I just didn’t get time to go out to Richmond Hill on this occasion. Next time!…..

linhelen on December 26, 2006 at 12:53 am

I only knew it as the Crown having been born near the time of the name change. I lived across the street on Balfour Place and spent a lot of time there. Very happy memories. I was devastated when it closed and was replaced by a supermarket.

CrownHeightser on June 10, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Recent update: a friend of mine invited me to help load some boxes on the way to his father’s office in, of all places, the old Crown Theater! The first floor is split into a grocery store, now Empire Kosher, which occupies the entire back half of the building and the west half of the front. The southeast corner is a medical clinic. I have yet to find any trace of the theater in either location, which both have (obviously) a level floor, although given the chance to take down a wall or two, that might change. The lobby is simply nonexistent and one cannot distinguish between any of the former theater areas within the grocery.

The upstairs, however, is a different story. The theater building sits on a slope and the alley behind it is a full story higher than Empire Boulevard. From the alley, one enters old emergency exits to find himself walking directly on the (now leveled) balcony and into the airspace of the old theater. For whatever reason, nothing of the old theater ceiling was ever touched! The entire space is encircled by a series of fine plaster moldings, interrupted in a few places by friezes. The ceiling itself is in fine shape, and a few recent drywall patches haven’t done much to interrupt the feeling. The old balcony ceiling is lower to allow for a projection room and covered in a gothic floral pattern. Painted entirely gold, the overall effect is quite impressive.

Near the back (west) side of the theater, large arches on the side walls seem to indicate former stairwells or exits of some sort. More exciting, however, is the front wall: the entire screen opening is intact and surrounded by thick plaster arches, also painted gold. The original theater was quite tall, and enough of the screen pokes above floor level to give one a feeling of having been there.

On the intriguing side of things, what appears to have been the opening to a large dome is, sadly, filled in by 4’ x 8’ ceiling tiles, interrupted in a few places by feeds for fire sprinklers within the (presumed) dome. Judging by the general state of affairs, and the necessity for sprinklers, I would guess that the dome exists intact, but what it looks like I could hardly venture to guess.

I didn’t make it up the stairs to the projection suite / under â€"roof area, nor have I ever seen the basement. I didn’t have a camera (would that I have known where I was headed!) but altogether it was quite a treat. The building doesn’t seem likely to undergo any changes, with a very busy kosher store and clinic downstairs and a well-maintained dry warehouse space upstairs, currently used by the Jewish Children’s museum on Kingston Ave. and Eastern Parkway. If anyone want to invite themselves in and take pictures, remember to say that you know me!

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on October 3, 2009 at 10:07 pm

CrownHeightser, thanks for sharing this. That’s pretty interesting ! May I ask you to contact me via my profile/website ?

TPH on August 17, 2010 at 3:15 am

It’s interesting that as certain Brooklyn neighborhoods re-gentrify there is a need for large event spaces for banquets and weddings. The corridor of Bedford Ave. between Flushing & Park Aves. heading towards Williamsburg, is a prime example. The Empress with its rich treasure of architecural detail in the upper portions would be a great location to open a banquet hall, sorely needed in the Crown Heights neighborhood.

Bergoju on August 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm

In the late 1930s, according to what my father told me at the time, the Empress was owned by his step-uncle, Isaac Levine. As a young child, I saw movies there, either free or for small change, courtesy of the family relationship. “Sh! The Octopus” (1937), which I realized much later was a comedy, but terrified me then, was probably typical of the less-than-first-rank films shown there.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on November 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I recently visited and photographed the former Empress Theatre. Check out my post on it at After the Final Curtain

robboehm on May 19, 2015 at 3:20 am

Photo as Crown from Brooklyn Pics uploaded.

robboehm on August 29, 2019 at 3:05 am

Uploaded a 1930 Century Theaters ad showing the Empress

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