Raising the Curtain Once Again at Vallejo’s Empress Theatre

Since 1911, generations of Solano County residents have enjoyed an exciting stream of films and live stage performances at Vallejo’s own Beaux-arts theatre, The Empress, designed by local architect William Jones.

Bay Crossings Staff Report
Published: March, 2007 

Simply, attending the fabulous theatre – a work of art in and of itself – created a very special experience not soon to be forgotten. When the curtain went up at The Empress, community members from Vallejo, Benicia, Fairfield and beyond connected to each other and to the world through the arts. When the curtains closed because of damages caused to the theatre by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, residents mourned the loss of their beautiful and beloved community-gathering arts center.

Eighteen years later, the curtain will rise again and the walls will be filled with applause.

Backed by the enthusiastic support of the greater Vallejo community, the City of Vallejo, the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation (VCAF) and Triad Communities, LLC are working together to transform The Empress Theatre into a once-again nexus of arts activities for the region. Construction is well underway with the completion projected for this spring.

The restored Empress Theatre will be a 6,300 square foot venue with 500 seats, offering live performances and movies. The sprung stage will accommodate live dance performances, musicals, symphony concerts and children’s programs. It will be an intimate and inspirational venue for local performing companies as well as regional and national performers.

The total cost to restore The Empress and cover operational costs for the first three years is an estimated $6.85 million. The City of Vallejo and Triad Communities have invested $5 million in loans and grants as evidence of their confidence in the potential of The Empress to galvanize the revitalization of Vallejo’s downtown core. The VCAF is responsible for raising the balance of $650,000 in bricks and mortar funds, plus $1.2 million for start-up and operating funds.

The first critical benchmark for the VCAF is to raise $200,000 in private funds in order to collect a matching challenge grant from the Northern California Community Loan Fund. VCAF is aiming to hit this initial goal in time for the opening this spring. A brief history of the Empress can be seen at http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1632/

If you, your business or foundation would like to make a donation to the restoration effort, please contact VCAF’s Executive Director, Celeste Smeland at (707) 648-4035.