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Landmark N.Y. theater rolled to new home 168 feet away

Empire Theater March 1, 1998
Web posted at: 10:18 p.m. EST (0318 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- An 86-year-old Times Square landmark -- all 7.4 million pounds of it -- completed its move to a new home Sunday after workers picked up the Empire Theater with hydraulic lifts and rolled it down 42nd Street.

Transferred onto a temporary foundation and propelled by hydraulic cylinders along a set of eight rails, the theater took less than five hours to slide 168 feet west of its original location.

The Empire opened its doors in 1912 as a showcase for movies, stage productions and even burlesque. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made their first performance as a comedy team there in 1935, when it was known as the Eltinge Theater.

Other famous entertainers who played the stage before it closed in 1985 included Laurence Olivier, Clark Gable, Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers.

The theater was abandoned for more than a decade after it closed.

It will reopen next year as part of a new entertainment complex featuring a 5,000-seat, 25-screen movie theater, a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and entertainment-themed restaurants. Developer Bruce Ratner intends to use the Empire's old Art Nouveau facade and its grand interior as the entrance to the new complex.

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