Empress Theater

Downtown Rochester

Empress Theater

Rochester, Minnesota 55902, United States

Created By: History Center of Olmsted County


The 772-seat Empress Theater opened on Broadway Avenue on October 5, 1914. Business entrepreneur J.E. Reid was the mastermind behind the venue, which hosted both vaudeville shows and films. The new theater made quite the buzz around town and hundreds of Rochester residents flocked to its doors on opening night, hoping to score a ticket to the evening’s 7:30 viewing of An Odyssey of the North, a silent movie based on an 1899 short story by Jack London. The first show sold out quickly and a second viewing was scheduled for later that evening. Dubbed “The Theater Beautiful” by the Rochester Daily Bulletin, the Empress was the baby sister to the more massive Saxe Theatre, later named the Strand Theatre, in Minneapolis, which had just opened its doors a month before. Its décor was Spanish Renaissance and pink was a prevailing color. The Empress employed its own orchestra, as did most theaters, and it also had a theater pipe organ. It ran two shows every Wednesday and Thursday in its first few years, later offering more movies and additional viewing opportunities, including Saturday serials during the 1940s and 1950s. These half hour chapter films were played before the weekend’s feature film and offered the audience a continuing story from week to week, enticing them to return the following weekend to see what happened to characters such as the Lone Ranger and Zorro. The Empress closed in 1956 and was demolished in 1965 to make way for a parking lot.

History Center of Olmsted County

This point of interest is part of the tour: Downtown Rochester


Leave a Comment



Download the App

Download the PocketSights Tour Guide mobile app to take this self-guided tour on your GPS-enabled mobile device.

iOS Tour Guide Android Tour Guide



Updates and Corrections

Please send change requests to changerequest@pocketsights.com.