Reel good times dating back 44 years at Empire Theatres

Posted on September 23, 2022 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


Empire Theatres signage at the entrance of the Avalon Mall location in St. John’s, N.L. (photo credit: Tripadvisor)


Do you remember going to your first movie? For many in Atlantic Canada, it was likely at an Empire Theatre. Owned by the Sobey family, Empire Theatres was in business for 35 years with locations across the Atlantic and the rest of Canada. Though the brand is no more, Sobeys recently found a new way to invest in the Scene.

Opening credits

Empire Theatres was founded in 1984 by Empire Company Ltd., the parent company of Sobeys Inc. with headquarters in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. The business began with the acquisition of Canadian Odeon Theatres locations throughout Atlantic Canada (before its merger with Cineplex). This left Empire Theatres with one main competitor in the area, Famous Players.

To compete, Empire Theatres built new locations and renovated existing theatres to resemble the large multiplexes other brands were introducing across Canada. This included adding a movie theatre to the Bayers Lake Business Park in Nova Scotia with 17 screens and an IMAX auditorium. While Empire was growing in the Maritimes, Famous Players focused on investing in the rest of Canada. So, in 2004 Empire Theatres purchased Famous Players’ locations throughout Atlantic Canada.


An Empire Theatres location in Canada (photo credit: CTV News)


Building suspense

After building a solid foundation on Canada’s east coast, Empire Theatres began to expand further. In 2005, they announced plans to acquire a total of 27 theatres across Canada located from Ontario to British Columbia. This move almost doubled the size of the business.

Empire purchased another two locations in Ontario in 2012, bringing total numbers to 53 theatres and 2,500 employees across Canada. In the same year, the company also announced plans to build a new location in Ottawa.


Cineplex’s Scotiabank Theatre and Rec Room at the Avalon Mall in St. John’s, N.L., which was formerly an Empire Theatres location (photo credit: Avalon Mall)


Closing curtains

After three and a half decades in business, Empire Company decided to close curtains on its investment in the movie business in June of 2013. The company planned to focus on Sobeys, its other retail food operations and its real estate business.

Empire’s 24 theatres in Atlantic Canada were to be sold to Cineplex Entertainment and most locations throughout the rest of Canada were acquired by Landmark Cinemas. Months later, the deals were finalized and Empire Theatres closed its doors.


Signage promoting Scene+ rewards inside and outside Sobeys locations (photo credit: Supermarket News)


Bonus Scene

Though Empire Theatres is no more, Empire Company recently announced a collaboration with Cineplex. In June of 2022, Empire revealed that it will become co-owner of the Scene+ rewards program along with Cineplex and Scotiabank. This will replace Air Miles rewards and allow customers to earn and claim Scene points at Sobeys and other Empire retail locations.

Paul Wyke, External Communications Specialist of Empire Company Ltd. provided the following statement: “Empire is always looking at new ways to delight our customers and is excited for this next chapter in our loyalty program. Our Scene+ launch in Atlantic Canada is an exciting milestone in our loyalty and customer experience journey and we look forward to rolling this program out across the country and offering our customers more choice and value through this program.”

Entering a new Scene, 44 years later.

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