Empire Theatre

Waitsburg, WA 99361

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Opening early in the 1900’s, the Empire Theatre was probably the first motion picture exhibitor in Waitsburg. It remained in operation through the early-1920’s but closed around 1928 when the Neace Theatre opened.

Contributed by john coursey

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 22, 2022 at 5:42 pm

Although it is not listed in the 1914-1915 American Motion Picture Directory, which misses Waitsburg completely, the Empire Theatre was open in 1914. In March of that year, manager Al. C. Stewart bought a Victor player piano from the Seattle branch of the Bush & Lane Piano Company. In July, 1922, Mr. Stewart sent a letter to the company, on an Empire Theatre letterhead, praising the durability of the instrument, which he was retiring after eight years, during which time it had been “…played in this theater three and half hours a night, three hundred and sixty-five days a year, under the hardest and most trying conditions.”

The April 11, 1914 issue of Moving Picture World mentions “A. C. Stewart, late of Rossland, B. C, now proprietor of the Empire Theater, Waitsburg, Washington….” If Mr. Stewart was the original proprietor of the Empire, it would have opened right around that time. This item is the earliest mention of a theater in Waitsburg I’ve found in the trade journals.

The December 6, 1924 issue of Exhibitor’s Trade Review has an item saying that “[m]any very important improvements are being made on the Empress Theatre, Waitsburg, Wash. Will reopen in a few weeks.” The name “Empress” was probably a mistake, and the item was actually about the Empire. The Empire is still listed, with 250 seats, in the 1926 FDY, and no other theaters are listed at Waitsburg that year.

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