Hackney Empire is a grade II listed building. The theatre was built as a music hall in 1901, designed by the architect Frank Matcham.
Charlie Chaplin, WC Fields, Stanley Holloway, Stan Laurel and Marie Lloyd all performed there, when the Hackney Empire was a music hall.
ATV bought the theatre to use as studios in the 1950s, and shows such as Take Your Pick and Oh, Boy! were broadcast live. Certain episodes of Opportunity Knocks were also filmed at the theatre. Some scenes from Emergency - Ward 10 were also filmed there. From 1963 to 1984 the theatre was used by the Mecca Organisation as a bingo hall.
In 1984, Mecca found the building too expensive to maintain as a bingo hall, and it was offered to C.A.S.T, a satirical touring theatre group, headed by Claire and Roland Muldoon, as a London base. They also mounted successful variety nights headlined by a new breed of alternative comedy acts, such as Ben Elton, Dawn French, and Jennifer Saunders.
The theatre was threatened with demolition, and in 1986, actor-manager Roland Muldoon mounted a campaign to acquire the freehold and to re-open the Hackney Empire as a permanent performance space; allowing the theatre to return to theatrical use for its 85th anniversary.