Vesta Tilley laid the foundation stone of what is now the Sunderland Empire on 29 September 1906 and took to the stage on 1 July 1907 to officially declare the theatre open.
Masterminded by two of the contemporary heads of British theatre, Edward Moss and Osward Stoll, the Sunderland Empire theatre has undergone many changes since it opened but remains the North East’s premier entertainment venue.
Contact Us - Please see our Access Contact Us page for details
Booking Information - Join our Access Membership Scheme to enable online booking for accessible seats, register for any available Access concessions and, for certain customers, reserve Personal Assistant tickets. Details on how to book Access tickets online are on our Booking With ATG Access Membership page.
Access Parking – There is limited Blue Badge parking outside the Fire Station which is located near to the theatre. There is also an area that can be used as a drop off. Alternatively there is parking at The Bridges or St Mary’s as above. Please always allow plenty of time as spaces can be limited at busy times.
Step Free Access and Wheelchairs
Our Foyer, Stalls and Dress Circle Bar are all accessible by lift or ask us for At Seat Service when you arrive.
We have step free access to our Stalls and Dress Circle levels. All stalls seats can be reached step free as can Boxes B and C and Row J in the Dress Circle. The main staircases in the theatre have handrails however there are no handrails inside the auditorium apart from in the Gallery.
For Wheelchair transfers we would recommend aisle seats in the stalls. The following seats are held off for access customers - Stalls P19-20, P20-21, H1-2, I1-2. Please note Seat T19 is not suitable for a wheelchair transfer due to the pillar situated next to it. We have wheelchair positions in Stalls row D38, F38, H38, J38, L38 and M38. Please note wheelchair positions in Row L and M can only accommodate a small standard wheelchair. These wheelchair positions are situated on a gentle incline. Boxes B and C in the Dress Circle can accommodate up to two standard wheelchairs and 2 companions.
The average seat width is 43cm and there are non-moveable arm rests in the Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle. The Gallery seating has no armrests. The doors into the boxes are only 66cm/2’2” wide – wheelchairs wider than this won’t get in. The lift door access is 86-88cm (2’2”) across all levels. The height of box barrier is 80cm (2’7”).
Accessible Toilets - We have Accessible toilets on both our Stalls and Dress circle Levels which can all be accessed via a lift in our foyer bar. Access can be gained via a radar key however our staff can provide one if needed.
Access Performances - All upcoming Audio Described, Captioned, BSL Interpreted and Relaxed performances are listed on our Assisted Performances page.
Visual Impairment Services - Information about our venue’s audio description, touch tours and other visual services can be found on our Visual Impairment Services page. We recommend central seats in the front few rows of the stalls for customers who require a closer view of the stage. For Audio Described shows prime position is Stalls D – G seats 11-30. Touch Tours/Q & A sessions may also be available to accompany Audio Described performances; this will be advertised on the web or brochure page for each show.
Hearing Impairment Services - Information about our venue’s hearing enhancement systems, signed performances and other hearing services can be found on our Hearing Impairment Services page. Our venue has an Infra-Red system. Please ask our door staff to supply one for you. A small deposit may be required and refunded on return of the headset. Please indicate at the time of booking how many headsets you require. We recommend Stalls row D – G seat numbers 11-30 for the best experience. For Captioned performances, we recommend seats in row A and B of the Dress Circle. We have 13 pairs of the Infra-Red headphones and 10 pairs of the headsets which work alongside hearing aids.
Access Video - You can find out more about accessibility at Sunderland Empire by watching this video.
Useful Links - For any resources such as Symbol Resources or links to our Euan's Guide page, please see our Additional Resources.