Architectural Background & Building Description
Daniel Boyle, later to become a prominent citizen of Fort Macleod, bought the theatre in 1937 and proceeded with major renovations, which still exist today. Originally, the ticket wicket and projection room were one room located behind the seats on the main floor. The entry to the theatre was through a brick arch on the exterior facade into a large outer vestibule. Mr. Boyle enclosed the vestibule and added washrooms and a concession stand, which are there today. The projection room was moved upstairs and a balcony that can seat one hundred was added to accommodate the increased patronage.
The Empress Theatre tries to create an authentic atmosphere by using the original seats, and keeping a large proportion of the theatre the way it was constructed in 1912. The basement contains the original dressing rooms, furnace room, boiler room, an office and a new washroom. Throughout the Empress, small tiffany-style lamps, which once were used to decorate alcoves, hang in various locations. The coal heating system was changed to steam to keep up with the times and much of Mr. Boyle’s work in the interior remains. Existing features include: the unique double seat system which allowed for a staggered arrangement, imitation window covers, which reflect the original door arches, light fixtures, air conditioning grills, and the stage stairs and front. The orchestra pit has been removed to give more playing place for the shows on the stage. Mr. Boyle is also responsible for installing the decorative neon tulips on the pressed tin ceiling for his wife.
The main fabric of the Empress Theatre has changed only superficially throughout the years. The building is a two storey rectangular brick structure with a poured concrete foundation and south-facing elevation. It features brick pilasters on the southwest and southeast corners and a parapet with decorative brick trim. The roofline is stepped at the east and west elevations and arched in the centre. The south elevation also features a cornice bordered by an egg and dart moulding. Of particular interest is the round window situated on the second storey, which looks into the projectionist's room. The main storey facade has been altered by the addition of metal paneling; however, the original brick archway is still intact underneath.
The Empress was purchased in 1982 by the Fort Macleod Provincial Historic Area Society and underwent renovations totaling close to $1,000,000. The Empress is now the only theatre in Fort Macleod. It still remains an example of a building, which was unique in its time.