Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Empire Theatres

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Industry  Movie theatres
Area served  Canada
Ceased operations  2013
Number of employees  3,000
Defunct  2013
Headquarters  New Glasgow, Canada
Founded  1978
Parent organization  Empire Company
Empire Theatres httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaenthumb2

Former type  Private (subsidiary of Empire Company Ltd.)
Fate  24 sold to Cineplex in Atlantic Canada. 23 sold to Landmark Cinemas in Ontario and Western Canada. 3 others closed.
Key people  Stuart G. Fraser, President and CEO Valerie J. Ryan, COO Paul Wigginton, Vice-President and CFO
Successors  Cineplex Entertainment, Landmark Cinemas

Empire Theatres Limited was a movie theatre chain in Canada, a subsidiary of Empire Company Ltd., the holding company of the Sobey family conglomerate.


In June 2013, Empire announced it would exit the movie theatre business, selling the vast majority of locations to Cineplex (24 in Atlantic Canada) and Landmark Cinemas (23, in Ontario and western Canada, including two locations originally slated to be purchased by Cineplex and the Downtown Ottawa theatre). Three other locations in operation at the time of the announcement were not included in either deal which are now closed.


Empire Theatres was formed from the Sobey family's purchase of the Atlantic assets of Canadian Odeon Theatres (later Cineplex Entertainment) in 1984. Later, it also acquired selected Famous Players theatres locations, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Famous Players remained a major competitor in the Maritimes. Empire responded by opening several new or replacement locations along the lines of the multiplexes being opened by Cineplex and Famous Players in the rest of Canada.

Despite an aggressive expansion in the Maritimes in the mid-1990s, Famous Players had focused on improvements elsewhere and did not match Empire's moves, one of which included an 18-screen (including one IMAX screen) multiplex in the Bayers Lake Business Park in suburban Halifax. With comparably minor interests in the region, Famous Players cut back on marketing and then sold its remaining screens in Atlantic Canada to Empire Theatres in 2004.

Expansion to Western Canada

On August 22, 2005, Empire announced it would acquire 27 theatres, with a total of 202 screens, in locations from British Columbia to Ontario, from Cineplex Galaxy LP, as a result of the latter's acquisition of Famous Players Theatres, effectively doubling Empire's size. Most of the locations were "traditional" venues, but some were larger theatres, such as Coliseum Calgary,SilverCity theatres in Kitchener and St. Catharines, Ontario, one in Calgary, Alberta,and Cineplex Odeon Square One in Mississauga.The deal closed September 30, 2005.

In December 2009, the Empire Theatres chain had 48 screens equipped with digital projection and RealD 3D capabilities. In March 2012, Empire announced that it was the "first national exhibitor in Canada to complete circuit wide digital cinema conversion", with 359 screens converted, 40 percent of which have RealD 3D capability.

On June 21, 2012, Empire announced the acquisition of two Ontario-based theatres from AMC Theatres, located in Ottawa, Ontario and Whitby, Ontario. Each theatre features 24 screens, including an IMAX experience auditorium. Empire had also announced plans to equip all screens in these locations with Barco digital technology, and some with RealD 3D technology, to "provide movie-goers with a state-of-the-art movie presentation experience".

Sale to Cineplex and Landmark

On June 27, 2013, Empire Company Ltd. announced that it would be focusing on its retail and real estate operations (including Sobeys, which earlier in the month had agreed to purchase Safeway's Canadian operations). To that end, Empire Theatres wound down its operations and sold or closed all of its theatres.

Cineplex Entertainment purchased 24 theatres for approximately C$194 million on October 10, 2013. This consisted of all Empire locations in Atlantic Canada. On October 22, 2013, Empire Theatres closed its Atlantic Canada locations after the evening shows. The Atlantic Canada theatres sale to Cineplex was completed on October 24, 2013. On October 24 or 25, 2013, the theatres reopened as Cineplex Cinemas. The deal was to include the two former AMC locations in Ottawa and Whitby, but these were later removed from this deal due to Competition Bureau concerns. In lieu of the Kanata location, Cineplex later acquired the rights to Empire's planned 10-screen Lansdowne Park location in Ottawa.

Landmark Cinemas purchased another 23 theatres in Ontario and Western Canada for C$55 million. This was a minority equity share and management control of the theatres, which was later financed by TriWest Capital Partners. On October 29, 2013, Empire Theatres closed its Ontario and Western Canada locations after the evening shows and reopened on October 31, 2013 as Landmark Cinemas. On October 30, 2013, Empire Theatres terminated operations permanently. The sale to Landmark Cinemas was closed on October 31, 2013. The Ottawa 7 theatre was run on a management contract until December 29, 2013 when it closed.

On November 1, 2013, Empire Company Ltd. announced the completion of the sale of Empire Theatres to Cineplex & Landmark.


Many Empire venues supplied New York Fries, Pretzelmaker, TCBY, and Pizza Pizza or Pizza 73 (such as Empire Theatres Pen Centre, Empire Theatres Guildford and Empire Theatres Bayer's Lake and IMAX Theatre in Bayer's Lake - Suburban Halifax, Nova Scotia). Along with these food venues, Empire Theatres also had their own traditional food venue in every theatre with food items such as popcorn and nachos.


Empire Theatres operated 50 locations and planned to build four more at the time of closure. Of these, 24 were sold to Cineplex Entertainment along with the rights to two of the planned locations, while another 20 locations were sold to Landmark Cinemas. Most of the locations sold to Landmark were formerly Famous Players locations.

Five locations were not included in the sales:

  • Elgin Mills 10 closed on August 15, 2013 but was acquired by Rainbow Cinemas in October 2013 and reopened on November 20, 2013. It is now owned by Imagine Cinemas.
  • Drive-in in Westville, Nova Scotia (closed permanently on September 2, 2013)
  • Victoria, British Columbia (closed on October 17, 2013)
  • World Exchange Plaza in Ottawa (lease expired in 2013)
  • Westmount Centre closed in spring 2011, and has since been vacant.
  • In addition to existing locations, Empire had announced plans to construct four additional locations. Of these, three were divested to Cineplex Entertainment and construction of the fourth has yet to occur:

  • Edmonton, Alberta: Empire announced plans to build a 10-screen location (of which one would feature digital IMAX technology) on June 12, 2012. Cineplex later acquired the rights to this building project on February 6, 2014. This location opened in April 2014, providing an UltraAVX auditorium in lieu of IMAX.
  • Markham, Ontario
  • Ottawa, Ontario (Lansdowne Park): Empire announced plans to build a 10-screen, three-storey location on May 26, 2011. The company initially did not sell its rights to this planned location and on June 27, 2013, Empire confirmed that it remained committed to the project. On February 24, 2014, Cineplex announced that it has secured the rights to this theatre. The ten screens include two 2D screens, three 3D screens, four VIP screens (a first for any Cineplex theatre in Ottawa) with optional 3D and one UltraAVX screen with optional D-BOX and 3D.
  • St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador: this location, which was to feature one Empire Extra screen, has been divested to Cineplex. As of 2015, satellite mapping confirms that no construction has taken place so far for this location. In the event that Cineplex does resume the project, UltraAVX is anticipated to replace the previously planned Empire Extra screen.
  • References

    Empire Theatres Wikipedia