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.)