From legit to burlesque to porn, the AMC Empire 25 has led a checkered life.

Winsome maidens cavort to the silent tune of a satyr’s pipes. Majestic sphinxes guard their pastoral interlude against intruders. And robed royalty lords over it all, bat-like, from above. This is not your typical multiplex ornamentation.

The AMC Empire 25 opened in 1912 as the Eltinge 42nd Street Theatre, named for the most popular female impersonator of the time, Julian Eltinge. Eltinge was one of the highest paid entertainers in the country, popular enough to have his own magazine (with articles on how to apply makeup) and his own line of cold cream. To show his appreciation for his biggest client, Eltinge’s producer and manager Al Woods commissioned respected architect Thomas W. Lamb to design a new theatre…

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