Burnley Empire home to Houdini first
Burnley Empire Trust, campaigning to restore and reopen Theatre at Risk Burnley Empire, has revealed exciting historical news - the theatre played host to the first-ever film featuring escapologist Harry Houdini.
Legendary lost film Houdini Defeats Hackenschmidt was initially thought to have been shown in Boston, Massachusetts in March 1906. The film, where Houdini escapes from manacles fastened by wrestler George ‘the Russian Lion’ Hackenschmidt, has been a mystery for scholars as no real reference to the film seemed to exist.
However, Houdini researcher John Cox has found a review of the film in the local Burnley Express dated 22 March 1905. This discovery confirms that the film was shown at Burnley Empire a year before it was known to exist, and makes the Grade II listed theatre, currently on our Theatres at Risk list, even more important to the local area.
Watch TV magician and Houdini expert Paul Zenon talking about the importance of the discovery and why Burnley Empire is relevant 115 years on.
Cover image: Burnley Empire by Ben Hamlen.
Top image: Harry Houdini and George Hackenschmidt from Burnley Empire Trust