Empire Palace of Varieties

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The term Palace of Varieties (or Palace of Variety) seems to have been a generic name for a number of theatrical establishments in South Africa during the period 1889-1910. So too does the name Empire in the heyday of the British empire. The venues had a number of varying of names over the years, and never seem to be referred to consistently. These include The Empire Theatre, The Old Empire Theatre, The Empire Music Hall, The Empire Palace of Variety, The Empire Palace of Varieties, etc. It pretty much seems to depend on who is renting it and who is writing about it, though the term “music hall" was an earlier one, usually replaced by the more flamboyant “palace of varieties” – [TH, McM].

The Empire Palace of Varieties, Cape Town.

The Empire Palace of Varieties, Johannesburg.

There have been two theatres by this name in Johannesburg:


In 1894 this became the new name for the re-opened Globe Theatre at 47/49 Fox Street in Johannesburg. It appears to have burnt down in 1903.

The Palace's bar became an informal stock exchange, and it was also the venue where the first motion picture was screened in South Africa in 1896 as the "Cinematographe", brought out by illusionist Carl Hertz.


A second, more famous, Empire Palace of Varieties opened at 135/7 Commissioner Street (corner of Kruis Street) in 1906. An Edwardian building, designed by McIntosh and J.A. Moffat, it could house 1200 patrons, and had 18 boxes. The theatre was very active and was finally pulled down in the 1935 to make way for the new Empire Theatre which opened in 1936.

[TH, McM].

Empire Palace of Variety


Johannesburg 1912 – Suburb by suburb research (Blog by Marc Latilla): Theatres in early Johannesburg,(Posted: July 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm)[1]

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See Music hall

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