The Imperial played an important role not only in the history of New Orleans theaters but also in the history of one of the city’s most prominent theater families, the Brunets.

The Imperial Theater opened in 1922 at Hagan Avenue and Dumaine. Owned by Rene Brunet Senior, a member of a prominent New Orleans theater family, Imperial Theater was Brunet's third theatrical endeavor. The exterior of the Imperial was in the Art Deco style popular throughout the 1920s and 30s. The theater advertised its “typhoon” cooling system. [2]

The story of the Imperial Theater, like other neighborhood theaters in New Orleans, contrasts with the image of the movie “palaces” and first-run houses owned primarily by major production corporations. At this time, the film business was “vertically integrated,” and included production, distribution, and exhibition. Theaters played a huge part in the success of film corporations. [1]

Throughout the life of the Imperial, the theater operated not only as an entertainment venue, but a gathering place for local families. The Brunets offered a variety of specialty nights that Rene Brunet Jr. details in his book, including yo-yo nights for children and “ladies gift nights,” where door prizes could include 52-piece dinnerware sets. Other events and contests used to attract people to the theater were amateur night, and even giving away live turkeys during Thanksgiving and Christmas! [2] Imperial Theater regularly supported fundraising and community benefit campaigns throughout the 1920s and 30s for a variety of causes.

Mr. Brunet were not the only members of their family involved in the daily operations of the Imperial. Rene Brunet Jr. once recalled that his sister ran the box office, and his grandmother took tickets from the time of the theater’s opening until it closed. Rene Brunet Sr. died in October 1946 from a heart attack. Shortly afterward, Rene Brunet Jr. took over operations of the Imperial. [2]

The Imperial was destroyed by an early morning fire in March 1957. The fire caused approximately $80,000 in damage [3] The Imperial was never reconstructed.



815 Hagan Avenue, New Orleans, LA