January 1908: The Empire theater was opened to the public! The main attractions being moving pictures, illustrated songs, and matinee performances three times a day. The owner of the theater, George Rolfe, is included as one of the main performers in the show list. The admission for adults at the time was 10 cents, which was a common price; however, children got in for 5 cents on matinees.
George Rolfe was the owner, and proprietor of the Empire theater. He also performed as a singer and was a master at attracting popular performers and moving pictures for his theater.
December 1908: Here we can see a very interesting advertisement put into the Albany Democrat referring to the Jubilee singers, which was an African American a-cappella group from Fisk University in Tennessee. In the paper, there’s some very dated language referring to the group's looks. There are also some advertisements from other businesses just below the main advertisement.
December 1909: The Empire would often host a variety of acts on stage. Here we can see an advertisement for scientific rope-twirling, which could mean an assortment of things. It’s unknown what this performance pertained- one could infer a jump-roping act, a knot-tying act, or an educational exhibition for local businesses. What is important is that the theater would host a variety of different performances.
September 1911: Proprietor of the Empire theater, George Rolfe, was very good at securing new acts for his theater on a regular basis. Here is an example of him attracting a popular singer from the time, Louis Hoffman, to perform for his theater. The Albany Democrat refers to his theater as “popular”, so it’s assumed that there was ample seating for people to enjoy a singer on stage.
August 1913: The owner of the Empire, George Rolfe, would often travel with associates to other states and perform. It is assumed that Rolfe would often advertise people to visit Oregon and come to his theater in Albany during these trips. Rolfe certainly seemed to be quite the active character- he did a lot of traveling, performing, and owned many theaters.
December 1911: The Empire theater is rented out “through the kindness” of George Rolfe for an entire day to show an auto-show. Not a physical car-show, but a moving-picture car show that shows how some of the greatest cars in the world (at the time) were constructed. It was meant to be an educational piece sponsored by the Barrett Brothers.
Near the end of the theater's time, it seemed like it struggled with some issues with technical issues and crime, which could be why the owner decided to ultimately build a new theater in a different part of town.
October 1912: An electrical current so strong caused technical difficulties to the picture machine, and the Empire had to cancel its show for the night. George Rolfe did end up giving out refunds, and the issue was fixed by the next day. George Rolfe certainly seemed like a good, hard-working man who respected his audience, and loved his theater.
May 1913: A woman charged another man for “mashing” her and her friends after a viewing at the Empire theater. The man followed the woman and her friends to the theater, sat near them, then followed them after the show and tried to ask to “accompany” them. A very creepy crime that occurred at the Empire theater near the end of its run.