6. Empire Theater

Photograph by Gregoire Alessandrini

If you went looking for The Empire Theater in the spot where it was in the 1970s, you wouldn’t find it. Not because it has been demolished, but because it has been moved. Opened in 1913 and designed by renowned theater architect Thomas Lamb, the theater was lifted up and rolled 168 feet from its original location in the late 1990s. As one of the jewels of the 42nd street redevelopment project, the theater maintains many original architectural features including the exterior facade and many interior details. Now a 25-screen AMC multiplex, you will find architectural elements of the theater inside the lobby.

The theater was originally converted to screen movies in 1942. The Empire was among many theaters in Times Square, including the Times Square Theater and The Lyric, which operated as grindhouses in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time, movie-going in the area was a risky activity. Pickpockets and muggers lurked in the dark and drug deals were happening in the balconies. Physically, the theaters were in poor condition with sticky floors and seats in disrepair.