A Short Introduction to the Site
A historic jewel of southern Alberta, the Empress Theatre was built in 1912 in the town of Macleod (now Fort Macleod) as a venue to entertain the Northwest Mounted Police through vaudeville and theatrical productions. It has remained an important part of the town since - mainly as a movie theatre. Currently the Empress Theatre shows films most evenings, but also has a concert series, hosts several film festivals, a chamber music festival, and summer theatre. Summer tours run regularly, with tours during the rest of the year available by request.
Full Description of the Historical Site or Museum
History of the Empress Theatre
Construction on the Empress Theatre started in 1910 during the great boom period of Fort Macleod's growth. The Empress was a franchise of the "Famous Players" chain and the fourth theatre in Fort Macleod at that time. Throughout its lifetime, the theatre has occupied a central location along Main Street.
The Empress Theatre has always played an important role in the community. Since the opening, it has served as a vaudeville house, concert hall, lecture hall, live theatre, and finally as a moving picture theatre.
The tiny basement dressing rooms of the theatre showcase numerous performers who have passed over the stage of the Empress. Recorded on the walls are the names of such acts as "Texas Tony and his Wonder Horse Baby Doll/The Purple Sage Riders, 1935, from Isabella, California" and the "CPR Minstrels, 1923". This tradition has carried on as evidenced by the names of contemporary performers written on the wood frame walls.
J.S. Lambert, a well-known contractor in Fort Macleod for T.B. Martin, the original owner, completed the Empress Theatre in 1912. The Lethbridge Herald carried the first announcement of a "new opera house" to be built in Fort Macleod in the January 1910 issue. It was to be a "first class theatre"with "every modern accessory", orchestra pit and artistic furnishings.
Ed the Ghost
A popular theory behind Ed, the theatre's resident ghost, is that of a former janitor of the Empress. He worked a second job at the local auction market and was known to enjoy a drink and a smoke now and then. This helps lead to the belief that the ghost is in fact this man, as often sightings, or experiences are accompanied by the scent of alcohol, tobacco and manure.
Lights go on and off at will and disposed popcorn buckets come back out of the garbage. Others believe that it is not in fact one person, but a few ghosts causing all the mayhem. The ghost or ghosts are simply referred to as “Ed”. He most often appears to people on their own, or groups of two or three. One incident that stands out occurred when one employee heard footsteps coming up from downstairs, while counting money in the concession. The employee attentively awaited a co-worker to appear, but the footsteps continued and no one appeared. They continued up the stairs, through the foyer and into the concession, stopping right beside her and still no body or person was visible. Actors in the past have reported seeing “Ed” on and off the stage during performances, and patrons of the theatre have reported seeing a man’s face appear in mirrors of the washrooms and upon turning around, no one being there.
Visit the Empress and perhaps you’ll come face to face with our biggest fan!
Hours OpenOffice is open 9-5 weekdays, Theatre is open a half-hour before performances
Driving Directions from Nearest Town or Landmark
Right in the heart of Fort Macleod