235 - 24 Street, Fort MacLeod, Alberta, T0L, Canada
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Empress Theatre is a two-storey brick structure, located on one urban lot on Fort Macleod's historic main street.
The Empress Theatre is significant as one of the last remaining examples of small town theatre architecture in Alberta. As the last remaining theatre in Fort Macleod, the Empress is also representative of the social and cultural life of the town since the theatre's construction in 1912.
The Empress Theatre was built during a period of prosperity for Fort Macleod: in the years before World War One, rail lines were being constructed, the ranching industry developed, and land opened for settlement. The theatre was important to the social life of any prairie town, and was often designed with ornate architecture and luxurious furnishings. Although the exterior of the Empress was quite plain, to match the streetscape of Fort Macleod, it was heralded as a first class theatre and eventually provided seating for four hundred with such amenities as plush chairs and tiffany-style lamps.
Although it has become exclusively a movie theatre, historically it was a cultural centre in southern Alberta, hosting vaudeville acts (indicating the importance of Fort Macleod to the North American theatrical circuit), community plays, concerts, lectures, meetings, and political rallies. It enjoyed a particular heyday in the early 1940s (and the interior was richly refurnished at this point) when the wartime economy fuelled money into movie-going and before the advent of television.
The building is an important part of the historic character of Fort Macleod's main street.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1083)
The character-defining elements of the exterior of the Empress Theatre include:
- rectangular form, scale and massing;
- brick facade of locally manufactured bricks including two corner projecting brickwork piers on south (front) facade;
- flat roof with curved parapet with decorative brick trim;
- large arched entrance;
- fenestration pattern including an oculus window that lights the projection room;
- projecting marquis sign;
- placement along the historic streetscape;
- projecting cornice;
- symmetrical decorative stucco panels.
Original remaining elements and fittings of the interior of the Empress Theatre such as the:
- theatre proper with its balcony;
- seating and decorative details;
- original dressing rooms, with graffiti from visiting performers;
- neon tulip on theatre's ceiling;
- projection booth with period projector.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Sports and Leisure
Function - Category and Type
- Auditorium, Cinema or Nightclub
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1083)
Cross-Reference to Collection