Empire Theatre

Empire Theatre
87 Massabesic Street
Manchester, NH 03103

The Empire Theatre was opened in 1912. During the 1930’s it was managed by Manchester resident Lucien Descoteaux.

  • Opened (under Descoteaux’s management) on Oct 7, 1931
  • 300 seats, single screen
  • Shows on Oct 7, 1931 were “Gods Gift To Women” and “Reducing”
  • Closed on December 16, 1946. An article appeared in the Manchester Union where Descoteaux said he was closing the theatre because the owners of the building (the Bruno family) were going to double his rent. His rent was to increase from $135 a month to $270 a month. Descoteaux apparently had plans to remove his equipment and open another theatre under the Empire name elsewhere in the city. Interestingly the theatre was only closed for a few months. The design of the ads for the Empire had changed prior to the closing, which indicates to me that there was a change in management. Descoteaux was listed as the manager until 1948, when the theatre was listed as being owned by BLC Corp and managed by Catherine M. Bruno. The theatre remained open under the Bruno’s until the late 60’s. The Empire Theatre had a large variety of owners after that, with attempts made in each subsequent decade to re-open.
  • A construction worker bought the Theatre in the late 70’s to attempt to revitalize it, but its unclear how long the theatre managed to stay open under his ownership.
  • The theatre was re-opened in early 90’s by Manchester area rock promoter Howie Howe. Howe initially opened the theatre and intended to run independent and cult pictures (Rocky Horror Picture Show for instance), but stopped showing pictures in 1992 because “we were $2000 in the hole”. Howe started to book rock groups to play the Empire, and it began to become a popular venue for the youth of Manchester to convene. In February of ’92 the owner of the building (Bruno Realty) received a letter from the building commissioner indicating that the theatre was not zoned as a entertainment venue that could have live music. Much like what has happened recently (2006) in Manchester with clubs like Omega and Envy, a ‘war’ was fought between the building owners and Howe against City Council. The City would ultimately win, and the theatre doors would close for good.
  • The theatre as of 2006 was (sort of ) home to a convenience store called the ‘Empire Market’. I say ‘sort of’ because the Market is on a corner and only extended partway into the theatre building. It appears as if the owners are using the Theatre for storage of some kind, it would be interesting to get inside and see what remains of the theatre innards. (Editors note 9/2/2016: A fire apparently broke out at the Empire on August 27, 2012. At the time it was apparently being renovated to become a function hall.)

Empire Theatre to CloseAd The Day The Empire Closed
Empire TheatreThe Empire and Rex Share PicturesChanges in Empire Ads After Management Change

The Empire Theatre as it appears as of December 2006
Empire Theatre Circa 12/2006


  1. Chris

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  3. dei xhrist

    Every time I walk by the Empire, I think “what a great place to convert to artist’s studios.” Studios that project indie films and – if the licensing is right – art house specials. The building is still dismal (4/2009) with broken glass, trash, and junk the superette can’t bring itself to throw away for real. Can’t see far enough in to gauge the condition of the interior; I’d presume that the seats would have been removed (& stored, fingers crossed) during the rock club years. Very possible that the projection equipment is still there, unless it’s been sold as scrap by consent or theft.

  4. Ben

    I used to play at the Empire in high school… some of the best-feeling, worst-paying gigs of my life, but man, did we have fun… My band was Daehtihs.

  5. Dan B

    Love this page, thank you. I remember being at shows, the cops trying to get in but the promoter said it was a private party. This club was probably the first club in NH that started a mosh pit. At first kids would gently bump into each other, a month later…crowd surfing and oh my gosh-a-mosh!

  6. Viveca Von Verheim

    The interior was gutted by the last owner. The idiot was allowed to rip out its beautiful interior down to the floor–what he did with the concession stands as well as seats and drapes is beyond me. Frankly–i`d love to drop kick him

  7. brian O'Connor

    as a kid I spent many weekend hours at the Empire, so I was delighted to get inside to shoot some photos in June 2010. check my flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pelicanwind

  8. brian O'Connor

    I should say that my viewing at the Empire was in the 1950s to the mid 1960s. One distinct memory was entering the theater by way of the candy section of the attached store.

  9. Howie Howe

    In the Srping of 2010, my landlords, Fromosa Properties, bought tehe building and the rest of the block out of foreclosure. I now act as the Property Manager – the itnerior is destoryed, adn recently the concession stand and projection booth are bing torn out. But I will be able to salvage the projection equipment and hope someday to use them again, though most likely not at the Empire.

    I still have hopes for the buildign as an entertainment venue.

  10. Jenelle Anderson

    I went to some pretty awesome party’s at the old empire, until my group moved on, back in the late 90’s.

  11. Logan Gabriel

    Played may a gig there with my band Pre-Existance back in the day. What a great place. It’s a shame it closed down. I wish it would open again for bands to play. Such a good vibe.


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