Does NDG's Empress Theatre have a future?

What used to be the Empress Theatre on Sherbrooke St. in NDG hasn't been used as a movie house since 1992, when a fire broke out inside. And despite several serious proposals over the years to bring the derelict building back to life, none of them have ever come to fruition, for lack of either will or money.

But now, it appears the borough of Cote-des-Neiges-NDG is preparing to get involved in restoring the building, which it has owned since 1998.

Borough mayor Sue Montgomery made a restoration of the old building a campaign promise in 2017, and now, she's expressing the hope that the building could become a multi-purpose community centre and cultural venue, and an anchor for that part of Sherbrooke St.

Montgomery told The Gazette that the borough would conduct an audit later this spring to determine whether the building can be saved — though she believes little more than the building's ornate ancient Egypt-themed facade can be spared.

It isn't clear, however, whether the city or the borough would chip in with some money for what would be an extremely costly restoration project.

The most recent serious proposal for the Empress came from a group called Cinema NDG, which put forward a $12 million dollar idea to divide the building into four projection rooms, and had the backing of the manager of another popular neighborhood theatre, Rosemont's Beaubien Theatre. A lack of funds put that idea on ice.

In the years before the fire, the Empress was known as Cinema V, a popular repertory theatre.