The Sunderland Empire is the North East of England’s flagship theatre. This beautiful Edwardian venue is one of the region’s largest theatres, capable of squeezing in up to 2,200 people. The Sunderland Empire serves as an excellent variety entertainment venue, hosting everything from theatre, dance, comedy and touring musicals.
The Sunderland Empire was officially opened in 1907 by variety and vaudeville star Vesta Tilley. Owners Richard Thorton and Edward Moss aimed to open up theatres to working class people in the region, and this was the target audience of the Sunderland Empire.
As theatre declined with the rise of television and cinema, the Sunderland Empire was taken over by Sunderland City Council who managed to keep the venue afloat. The Sunderland Empire re-opened in 1960 and played host to numerous important performances, including a visit by The Beatles during their first UK national tour.
In the early 2000s the Sunderland Empire’s operators changed hands again and the venue underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment. The upgrades to the Sunderland Empire mean that it is proudly the only theatre between Edinburgh and Manchester capable of staging large West End productions, something it has done often since - Starlight Express, Miss Saigon and Footloose have all been performed there.
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The Sunderland Empire has step-free access to the foyer and Stalls, which has the most wheelchair seats available. There are lifts available to the Stalls and Dress Circle, the latter of which has wheelchair seats in box B and C. There are accessible toilets in both of these areas, as well as near the Stalls bar.
For patrons who require a more relaxed theatre experience, there is a quiet space available and a TV relay of the performance in the Dress Circle bar. The theatre also offers familiarisation tours and early entry upon request.