Saturday, April 13

Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Liverpool Empire Theatre is a theatre located on the corner of Lime Street and London Road in Liverpool, Merseyside, England, United Kingdom. The playhouse, which opened in 1925, is the second one to be built on the site. It has the largest two-tier auditorium in Britain and can seat 2,348 people. During its time it has hosted many types of entertainment, including variety shows, musicals, operas, pop concerts, and plays. The Beatles appeared in the theatre in their early days. The theatre has hosted two Royal Command Performances and in 2007, a Royal Variety Performance to mark Liverpool’s being designated a European City of Culture the following year. It is sited in the William Brown Street Conservation Area.


The site’s first theatre, which was at that time was Liverpool’s largest, was named the “New Prince of Wales Theatre and Opera House” opened on 15th October 1866. On 29th July 1867 its name was changed to the “Royal Alexandra Theatre and Opera House” in honour of Princess Alexandra, Princess of Wales. In 1894, the playhouse closed but was re-opened the following year under the ownership of Empire Theatre (Liverpool) Ltd. In 1896 the theatre was sold to Messrs. Moss and Thornton for £30,000 (equivalent to £3,500,000 in 2019) and renamed “The Empire”. It closed for the final time on 16th February 1924 and was demolished.

The current Liverpool Empire Theatre opened on 9th March 1925. In 1977 the theatre was still owned by Moss Empires, who were making plans to dispose of it. Two years later it was acquired by Merseyside County Council. During the following two years a total of £680,000 was spent on improving the backstage facilities and extending the stage and orchestra pit. The theatre underwent a further major refurbishment in 1999; this included increasing the size of the stage and improving the facilities for the audience. By 2002 the theatre was owned by Clear Channel Entertainment. In that year an extension was built on the north side of the building.



The theatre was designed by W. and T. R. Milburn for Moss Empires; the carving and the ornamentation in the auditorium were carried out by E. O. Griffiths. The building is constructed on a steel frame, with a Portland stone façade and brick elsewhere. The architectural style of the façade is free Neoclassical. The front of the theatre is in five bays, the central three of which have an attic rising above the two lateral bays. The ground floor of the central bays contains the entrance doors and over them is a steel canopy decorated with medallions and guilloché bands. The storey above ground level contains the balcony, with single and paired Ionic columns, between which are recessed windows. Over this is a dentilled cornice and the attic. On the first floor of the side bays there are windows in architraves that are flanked by shallow pilasters above which is a plain parapet.


The entrance foyer is on the ground level, with stairs to the balcony on both sides of the foyer. The seats are raked both to the sides and to the rear in order to improve the lines of sight. The internal decoration is in Louis XVI style. It contains “many curious decorative features including carved elephant caryatids”.

Address: Lime Street, Liverpool, United Kingdom

Owner: Ambassador Theatre Group

Opened: 9th March 1925

Renovated: 1977 & 1999

Capacity: 2,348


Information correct as of September 2020