Sunderland Theatre Shows and Venues

Sunderland is home to two main theatres: Sunderland Empire and The Royalty Theatre. Both locations offer great seating arrangements, friendly staff members, top-of-the-line production value, and a night that guests will never forget.

Sunderland Empire Theatre

The Sunderland Empire was built in 1907 and still stands as one of the main attractions in Sunderland. The venue is located on High Street West and is part of the Sunderland Empire Theatre Trust. The city owns the theatre, and it remains one of the largest theatres around.

Founded in 1907, the theatre was formerly called Empire Palace and was founded by Richard Thornton.

Seating Capacity

Guests can sit or stand in the theatre. While most guests prefer to sit in the 1,860 seats available, there is ample standing areas that allow for 2,200 people to enjoy the same show. What makes this theatre so special is that it’s one of the few remaining theatres in the United Kingdom that still maintains a fourth tier.

The tiers include four private boxes and to proscenium boxes, too.

Guests can view the show from the Orchestra Stalls, Dress Circle, Upper Circle or the Gallery.

Refurbishment and Revival

The theatre underwent an extensive refurbishment phase in 2004 that closed the theatre for nine months. The stage was expanded and the fly tower was made higher to accommodate West End shows.

Refurbishment allowed the venue to welcome many shows:

Miss Saigon

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Scrooge: The Musical

My Fair Lady

The refurbishment allowed the theatre to remain relevant and offer the high end productions that the former Empire Palace offered when the building was first constructed.


Guests of all mobility ranges come to Sunderland Empire Theatre. The theatre remains accessible to guests, and there are many handicap and accessible accommodations offered. A few of the many way that the venue ensures guests have a good time include:

8 spaces for wheelchairs

British sign language performances

Captioned performances

Audio described performances

Relaxed performances

Accessible stalls

There is an accessible stall bar, too. Guide and hearing dogs are welcome in the theatre.

A beautiful venue in every respect, Sutherland Empire has fantastic service with an array of shows for every person’s likes and dislikes. There are comedy shows, too, which are always a big hit among guests.

Food and drinks are available, but many guests complain that the prices are high (standard for all theatres).

The Dress Circle and stalls offer the best seating options. When you step into the main auditorium, you’ll be walking into a time capsule of theatre past, with countless fixtures and decor that will make you feel like you’re a special guest walking into an exclusive building.

And when the show begins, you’ll be blown away by the level of production, lighting and audio in Sunderland’s most famous theatre.

Top shows playing at the venue include:


Jack and the Bean Stalk


Abba Mania


Vampires Rock

There are dozens of top-rated shows playing at the theatre. Check the schedule and book a ticket to see your favorite shows before they book up.

The Royalty Theatre

The Royalty Theatre has entertained the residents of Sunderland for over 90 years. The amateur theatre is one of the oldest in the region, priding themselves on high quality theatre shows. The regular season schedule boats 6 plays and a pantomime for the family.

A team of volunteers help write and produce many plays, and this theatre is as much about culture as it is about production.

The small venue is close to town, and it is much bigger inside than expected when looking at the exterior. The theatre has a bar with drinks and snacks for guests to enjoy before their big show. Seating offers ample space for guests, and the seats have comfortable padding that many large theatres seemingly overlook.

When queuing for drinks, expect the bar to be packed. You’ll have to wait quite some time to get your drinks.

But the small, family-friendly atmosphere is worth the wait. The building has a sense of charisma and charm that other theatres don’t offer. The beauty of the building is apparent from the moment you walk through the doors.

Full of history and architectural brilliance, the Royalty Theatre recently underwent exterior repairs.

The 1925 theatre has a slew of productions available every year:

The Judas Kiss

The Odd Couples

The Pitmen Painters

Oliver Twist

There’s a youth academy every Thursday that helps youths work on their drama, music and dance. This is a great opportunity for kids and guests to learn about the different areas of theatre, including sound, set design and lighting.

Productions are held every year with different themes.

Volunteer positions are always open to help backstage and give back to the community. The Royal Theatre truly brings a special sense of “being” to guests and theatre lovers alike.