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Sunderland Empire Sunderland

What's On at the Sunderland Empire

About the Sunderland Empire

Sunderland Empire, the largest theatre in the North East of England, first opened in July 1907 as the Empire Palace. It initially staged variety and music hall shows and throughout the 20th century has played host to a number of significant moments in live theatre. In 1967, Academy Award winner Helen Mirren made her stage debut at the Empire in David Halliwell’s Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, whilst Carry On star Sid James passed away from a heart attack whilst performing in The Mating Season on 29 April 1976. 

Boasting a large, traditionally decorated auditorium in a red and gold colour scheme and capacity of 2,000, Sunderland Empire was refurbished and the stage expanded in 2004. This allowed large scale West End productions to visit the venue whilst on tour. The theatre reopened with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express, and in 2005 hosted the European premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s first ever touring production. 

Currently operated by Ambassador Theatre Group, Sunderland Empire regularly welcomes touring musicals, opera, ballet, dance and local amateur productions.

Plan Your Visit

Public spaces at the theatre open up to 90 minutes before the start of a performance.
There is no cloakroom at Sunderland Empire. Theatregoers are encouraged to bring only small bags which can be taken into the auditorium.
A variety of security measures are in place at the theatre. Upon arrival, you may be asked to allow a front of house or security staff member to check your bag, so it is advised that you arrive early to avoid queues and be seated before the performance starts.
Sunderland Empire has 5 bars, located on the Foyer, Stalls and Dress Circle levels. Theatregoers can also book bespoke Ambassador Lounge packages when purchasing tickets online.

The theatre’s Garden Place Bistro is open for pre-show dining. Tables can be booked by calling 0191 566 1064.
Aperitif Bar and Kitchen is a popular pre-theatre dining spot, with Italian favourites such as pizza and pasta served alongside small sharing plates. For fans of Indian food, Spice Empire is just across the road from Sunderland Empire and serves South Asian dishes with a modern twist.
Hilton Garden Inn is a short walk from the theatre, offering comfortable rooms, a restaurant and bar at affordable prices. For visitors on a budget, Travelodge Central is also very close to Sunderland Empire.

Help Booking Tickets

Customers can collect tickets at the box office up to 90 minutes before the start of their scheduled performance. Please bring the card you booked with and your confirmation email, as this will help the box office team locate your tickets.
The box office opens for ticket collection 90 minutes before the first performance of the day.
Customers can contact the box office team for booking enquiries by calling 0333 009 6690 or emailing
STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) are the industry body that regulates the sale of London theatre tickets. When booking from a company you can check their ticket seller database to see if they are registered and conforming to STAR practices. When buying online, you should also check for the padlock in your browser URL bar to ensure the connection is secure.
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