Photo du Jour – Empress Theatre

Empress Theatre

The old Empress Theatre, located on Sherbrooke Street W, corner Marcil, in NDG. Photo taken April 27th, 2008.

Built in 1927 the Egyptian-style building began its life as a vaudeville theatre, and then, in 1962 was re-incarnated as a burlesque dinner theatre called the Royal Follies. In 1968, it became known as Cinema V, and in the ’70s switched to a repertory movie house and home of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. A fire in 1992 damaged the theatre and it has been closed ever since.

The Empress Cultural Centre aims to give the building new life as a cultural centre and performance space, something that most NDG residents (myself included) feel is lacking from the ‘hood. The final plans include a café/art gallery, and in partnership with the McGill University Conservatory of Music, a 246-person concert hall. The project will cost $6-8 million, which you can apparently help offset by purchasing their “special Empress chocolate truffles” at the head office (the door to the left/East of the building) and at other NDG businesses.

14 comments

  1. That’s great news! I always admire that façade whenever I’m in NDG, and I worried that it would end up housing yet another Pharmaprix or something. Other theatres have not fared so well with the cold indifference of real estate “values”.

  2. Very happy to hear this venue is up a running again. It’s a terrific outlet for more of our great, homegrown talent. Bravo!

  3. I have fond memories of playing hooky and sitting in the mysterious darkness of the Empress with my co-conspirator, David Duncan, as we each silently pledged our troth to Carole Lynley in “Blue Denim”.
    A better treat was the Monkland theater. Its loges and star-painted ceiling transported us to a Venetian night. I wondered if it had been modeled on the Globe theater. “And now, from the stage of the Monkland theater, Radio station CJAD presents Moira Sheehy’s LITTLE PLAYERS OF THE AIR….”

  4. It’s not on the corner of Marcil and Sherbrooke, it’s on the corner of Old Orchard and Sherbrooke

  5. empress??? here I am in vancouver remembering seeing texas chainsaw massacr and the exorcist!! ( we snuck in too young) at CINEMA V (5) anyone else??

  6. The glass doors on the left of the picture are the old Empress Tea Room which was at first a place for theater goers to have their pre-movie beverages and later became a hangout for Motorcycle gangs. The Empress is on the south side of Sherbrooke opposite N.D.G. Park where many of us played our first games of softball and hockey. Between the theater and the corner of Marcil was a funeral home.

  7. John Lynch: I was a member of the Little Players of the Air at that time. Do you have any photos or info about the Monkland theater, etc.?

  8. How long did the Rocky Horror Picture Show play at the Theatre.   I know when i lived in Montreal it was the only show playing in the theatre at the time.  Just wondering.   

  9. My 4 sisters sang in the Little Players of the Air show. I wonder if there are any recordings of the songs the kids sang

    Richard Hutchinson

  10. My brother Kevin, sister Pat and I were with The Little Players of the Air for several years. Each Saturday morning it would be broadcast over radio station CJAD from 1191 Mountain Street. The program was aired live a few times a year from the stages of the Monkland and Rialto Theatres where we would follow the program with the performance of a variety show. Movies would then follow – all for the bargain price of 34 cents. My siblings and I made direct-to-disc recordings (that I still have) at Miss Sheehy’s rehearsal studio above a hardware store on Queen Mary Road. J. Arthur DuPont (CJAD) promised Miss Sheehy a radio show if he ever got his radio broadcasting license – which he obviously did.
    By the way, the space above the Empress Tearoom was home to an acting school where Michael Sarrazin studied. I got to know him a bit and later on we occasionally played at the same gigs in different bands. He was a pretty good drummer. 

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