Empress Theatre

112 N. 1st Street,
Central City, KY 42330

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The Empress Theatre was opened by 1914, and seated 300. It would have been located across the street from the current Cinema 4. It had closed by 1926.

A second Empress Theatre was opened in 1937 which has its own page on Cinema Treasures.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 7, 2014 at 7:36 pm

The May 27, 1954, edition of the Central City Messenger said that “Dave Cohen is busy remodeling the old Empress Theater building….” In the June 3 issue an electronics store advertised its new location in the former Empress Theatre building. The October 21 issue said that the third floor of the building was being converted into a studio for a radio station that would begin broadcasting as soon as the FCC granted it a license.

The earliest reference by name to the Empress Theatre I’ve found is from August, 1921. The June 18 issue of The American Contractor that year noted a theater to be built at Central City, but it was only two stories tall. I suppose the plans might have been changed or a third floor added later. It would help if we could find a photo of the Empress to see if it matched the proposed building, which was to be 70 x 110 feet with brick walls and stone trim. It was designed by Joseph & Joseph for the Selba Amusement Company.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 3, 2022 at 6:02 am

New information about Central City has cropped up, and there were houses called the Empress operating outside the 1922-1924 time frame we have for this theater. A 320-seat Empress is listed at Central City in Gus Hill’s 1914-1915 Theatrical Directory, and the records of an anti-trust case making its way through the courts in the early 1940s reveal that a Guy D. Martin and Mr. F. M. Pittman had converted a store building into a house called the Empress Theatre in early 1937. Also, an item in the Central City newspaper, The Times-Argus, on December 2, 1938, said that the Empress Theatre would reopen on December 4, repairs having been completed following a fire on Thanksgiving Day.

The Empress Theatre at 112 N. First Street was in operation by 1915, and is seen in this photo from the Darren Snow collection at CinemaTour, dated 1921. I’m not sure when it closed, or if it later operated under any other names. The Empress building that was converted into an electronics store in 1954 (not 1924) must have been the second Empress, which had opened in 1937.

I don’t know if the Empress opened in 1937 by Martin and Pittman was in the same location as the earlier Empress, which might have been converted into a store building, though I don’t know when. The 1926 FDY lists four theaters at Central City: The Corbin, the Hippodrome, the Selba and the Union. Any of those other than the Selba might have been the old Empress under a new name. I also now believe that the theater designed by Joseph & Joseph in 1921 was in fact the Selba, which in 1937 was renamed the State Theatre after being acquired by the Crescent Amusement Company. At this time we don’t have a page for it yet.

In any case, quite a bit of research still needs to be done on Central City’s theaters. We have only the sketchiest outlines so far.

robboehm on June 5, 2022 at 3:12 pm

Looking for information on the Mecca in Greenville (yet to be established on CT) there is also mention of theatres in Central City. The Empress and Selba (which is also not on CT aka State) had a parallel period of operation. All this was in a lengthy transcript of a Supreme Court trial which makes your head spin.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 5, 2022 at 8:17 pm

SethG: Two different theaters called the Empress are partly conflated in the description. The second Empress opened in early 1937 and its building was probably the one that was converted into an electronics store in 1954. The first Empress, which was the one at 112 N. First Street, was probably the house listed in the 1914-1915 edition of the Gus Hill directory, and we don’t know when it closed but it isn’t listed in the 1926 FDY, or at least not as the Empress (it could have been operating as the Corbin, the Hippodrome, or the Union.) There is a photo of it dated 1921 at CinemaTour. I haven’t been able to find an address for the second Empress, or whether or not it was in operation all the way to 1954.

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