Empire 4 Cinemas
Rohnert Park, California

Built in 1985 by Redwood Theatres the Empire Cinemas gave Rohnert Park the movie theatre they so badly needed.

The Empire was the only theatre operating in town for over 15 years.  Most of that time was spent as a discount house because when UA purchased it they did not want to draw patrons away from the more profitable theatres in the city to the north.  It wasn't until plans were announced to build a 16-plex across the parking lot, did UA decide to play first run products.

When the theatre switched from discount to first run, UA upgraded nothing.  Leaving worn out seats, no leg room and no cupholders in the auditoriums.  Not to mention three auditoriums equipped with Kelmar mono and one auditorium with a CP-50 stuck permanently in bypass.  At the rear of this auditorium (#4) was the booth door.

Auditorium #1 was the only theatre without continental seating.  Ironically, though, it had the most comfortable seats.

Theatre #4 again.  I remember once the manager having to explain on the recording that "Films viewed in theatre #4 will be dim... like really dim... you can still see the movie, sort of.  But be forewarned, it will be dim."

This theatre was equipped with Norleco FP-20s, Christie lamphouses and AW-3's and various Kelmar automations.  The motors were not wired into the automations and therefore one could not motor the film through without running the projector.  This was actually a benefit for this location, because it forced the operators to wind the film immediately back to the platters instead of letting it collect on the floor.

Another view of projector #1.  UA finally converted the Autowinds to have removable brains when the manager convinced the higher ups that it would help them to repair all the brain-wraps their equipment was causing.

Projector #4.  The Norelco FP-20.  Extremely tricky to change lenses and each pad roller had to be held open while threading.  The film gates were plastic, and were held shut with a very small spring that would often pop open during performances.  The Empire solution: cram an old trailer between the film gate and the lens barrel.

Projector #3 this time.  Just like all FP-20's it required what seemed like HUGE flappy loops for the upper two sprockets (especially to somebody who learned on a Simplex or a Century projector)  The fun part was if you made the huge loops TOO big, they'd flap all over the place and scratch the center of anything that played through it.

#3 again - with the infamous CP-50 in the background.  #3 was the only theatre equipped with stereo surround, even if it didn't work properly.  The management tried hard to get it fixed, and may have suceeded toward the end of the Empire's existence.

This was one of the theatre's Assistant Managers threading up the very last film to ever play through these projectors while located at the Empire Cinemas.  The theatre was closed and left empty for quite some time until it was converted to an animal hospital in 2002.

Special thanks to Scott Neff and Adam Martin for the pics.