Brady Building--Empire Theater
Charline McCombs Empire Theater
The building in 2017
Charline McCombs Empire Theatre is located in Texas
Charline McCombs Empire Theatre
Charline McCombs Empire Theatre is located in the United States
Charline McCombs Empire Theatre
Location204 E. Houston St.—226 N. St. Mary's St.
San Antonio, Texas
Coordinates29°25′33″N 98°29′27″W / 29.42583°N 98.49083°W / 29.42583; -98.49083 (Brady Building--Empire Theater)
Arealess than one acre
Built1914 (1914)
ArchitectMauran, Russell & Crowell
Architectural styleClassical Revival
NRHP reference No.99000283[1]
Added to NRHPMarch 17, 1999

Charline McCombs Empire Theatre is a performing arts venue in San Antonio, Texas, United States. It hosts a variety of live events — such as comedy shows, music concerts, children's theater, classic productions — and it is also open for private events.[2][3][4][5] It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[6][2]


Charline McCombs Empire Theatre was established as Empire Theatre in 1913 where the Rische Opera House once stood. Thomas Brady hired Mauran, Russell & Crowell, an architectural firm from St. Louis, to design the theater. It originally operated as a vaudeville house and later as a movie house.[7][8]

The Empire was considered as one of the most modern theatres in Texas. Brady ensured that the theatre utilized state-of-the-art lighting system, acoustics, motion pictures and stage equipment. The theatre's walls were decorated with ornamental medallions and intricate paintings with 23-carat gold leafing.[7][9][10]

A deluge devastated the Empire Theatre in 1921. The 9-foot (2.7 m) flood damaged the interiors and Brady struggled to restore the Empire. He resorted to covering the walls with thick layers of white paint. The Empire still managed to boom in the 1920s. Hollywood's biggest stars, Charlie Chaplin, Lon Chaney and Mae West, visited the place to promote their films.[7][9]

The Empire Theatre, however, eventually declined. It turned to a B-movie house and later served adult films until it shut down in 1978.[7][8][9]

The city of San Antonio bought the decaying theatre in 1987. There was a cooperation with Las Casas Foundation to raise funds and revive the Empire. Charline McCombs, a native businesswoman, donated $1 million. It was renamed as Charline McCombs Empire Theatre as a tribute. The grand reopening was held in 1998 and Kenny Rogers was the first performer.[11][12][13]

The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.[9][14]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Martinez, Kiko. "Arts and Entertainment Venues in San Antonio". San Antonio Current. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  3. ^ Rodriguez, Jakob (9 June 2021). "Nikki Glaser to perform at Charline McCombs Empire Theatre in July". KSAT. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  4. ^ Martin, Deborah (24 June 2019). "Actor Adam Driver's organization invites active military, veterans to free play reading in San Antonio". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  5. ^ Nelson, Kelly Merka. "All-female Brass Ensemble tenTHING Brings Special Performance to Empire Theatre". San Antonio Current. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Charline McCombs Empire Theatre". Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d "The Ghosts of the Empire Theatre in San Antonio". Ghost City Tours. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Charline McCombs Empire Theatre – Meetings | Visit San Antonio". Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d "Charline McCombs Empire Theatre, San Antonio". Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  10. ^ "History of The Charline McCombs Empire Theatre" (PDF). Majestic Empire. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  11. ^ Terracina, Miles (13 May 2014). "Empire Theatre, Clad in Gold, Turns 100". San Antonio Report. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  12. ^ "About Us". Las Casas Foundation. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  13. ^ "From Spurs to philanthropy, Charline McCombs' impact on San Antonio immeasurable". Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  14. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Brady Building--Empire Theater". National Park Service. Retrieved August 17, 2021. With accompanying pictures