Sunderland Empire Theatre attracts people from all over the country for its shows. Much loved by the people of Sunderland, this theatre is beautifully designed with one thousand eight hundred and sixty seats within and space for two thousand two hundred standing. In the past it was known for two resident ghosts and unfortunately having Sid James, famous from the Carry On films, to suffer a heart attack while on stage and pass away shortly afterwards. These events, though, are firmly in the past, and the theatre continues to grow in stature, being a part of the Ambassador Theatre Group who have led the theatre to become the flagship theatre in the North East of England.
The theatre is special in the fact that it is one of the few theatres that still has four tiers, while many others have lost these to modernisation it retains that wonder of early twentieth century theatrical design. The theatre has hosted a range of performances from comics and large performances and is proud of the fact it was the theatre where Helen Mirren performed her stage debut. It also hosted the Beatles on their first UK tour – big names fit easily into the fabric of Empire.
The theatre today hosts a range of shows from musicals, opera and ballet and due to the size of the theatre can host the largest of events with suitably dramatic sets. In 2004, the theatre was refurbished after a £4.5 million redevelopment that extended the theatre and allowed for West End Shows to be performed within the theatre. Shows like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Starlight Express that require large amounts of space can put on their productions at the Sunderland Empire and the touring companies often choose it over Newcastle’s Theatre Royal because of this.