Empress Theatre / Empress Hall, Lillie Road, Earls Court, London
Above - The cast of the Ice Spectacular 'Ranch in the Rockies' at the Empress Hall in the 1950s
The Empress Theatre in London's Earls Court was built for Imre Kiralfy, the Hungarian showman, by D. Charteris to the designs of the architect Allan O. Collard in the late 1800s. The Theatre was quite unlike normal Theatres for although it had a stage and a proscenium arch at one end, the seating was all on one level and the vast space could hold upwards of 5,000 people with an uninterrupted view of the stage from any position.
Right - Programme for the Ice Spectacular 'Ranch in the Rockies' at the Empress Hall in the 1950s
The whole auditorium occupied a space 370 feet wide by 220 feet long and the stage itself was 315 feet wide, six times wider than the largest Theatre stages of the time. The front of the stage also hid a large water tank which could be revealed by rolling back a series of platforms. The Theatre included a fly tower so that the scenery could be suspended from above and the orchestra was hidden behind the proscenium.
Left - Programme for 'London Melody' at the Empress Hall in the 1950s.
The Theatre was built to house Kiralfy's spectaculars, he was a Hungarian showman who had had great success in America in the 1870s. Some of his spectaculars had been featured in Barnum and Bailey productions and one; "Nero or the Destruction of Rome," which had been hugely successful in New York in 1888 was brought to London's Olympia in 1889 to compliment another of P. T. Barnum's shows.
Right - Programme for 'White Horse Inn on Ice' with Max Wall at the Empress Hall in the 1950s.
The Empress Theatre was stripped out in 1915 in order to be able to house Belgian refugees and by the end of the First World War it was being used as a storage depot, and for designing mock ups for railway stations.
Left - Programme for the Ice Musical 'Wild Fire' with guests Richard Hearne & Frankie Vaughan, at the Empress Hall in the 1950s - Courtesy The Margaret and Brian Knight Collection.
In 1935 the Empress was returned to use as an entertainment venue when it was converted into an Ice Skating Rink with seating for 7,000 people. The Empress Hall as it was now known reopened in November the same year and over the following years the building became known as the home of London's Ice Spectaculars, putting on a huge variety of Musical extravaganzas on ice.
Right - A Ticket stub for the summer presentation of 1955 at the
Above - Both sides of a Ticket for the Empress Hall for July 26th 1951 - Courtesy Susan Brind.
The Empress Hall was eventually demolished and an office building called The Empress State Building stands on the site of the former Empress Theatre / Empress Hall today.
You may find the following pages from this site of interest: