Paris Cinema (Capitol Theatre) Worcester, MA

View from the side of the balcony.

The Paris Cinema in Worcester, Massachusetts originally opened as the Capitol Theatre on December 11, 1926. It was designed by architect Roger Garland for the Worcester Capitol Company. An atmospheric theater, the 2,500 seat Capitol was designed with a blue dome ceiling and side walls that looked like a Spanish villa. Clouds were projected across the ceiling to complete the illusion that the audience was sitting under the night’s sky. Lou Zoeller, a songwriter, and Janet “the World’s Smallest Prima Donna” Bodwell, two vaudeville performers, played at the theater during the opening week.

A Wurlitzer Opus #1492 organ was installed in the theater when it opened. It is now located in the Rochester Museum and Science Center in Rochester, NY.

On Dec. 13, 1966, the Capitol closed for renovations, and reopened as the Paris Cinema on March 4, 1967. The Paris was divided in two the following year by separating the balcony from the orchestra level. It was billed as “Worcester’s first theater within a theater” when it opened on April 10, 1968. “Bonnie and Clyde” starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway was the first film shown in the former balcony, now known as the Paris Cinema 2, and “Planet of the Apes” starring Charlton Heston was shown at the Paris Cinema 1. During the 70’s the Paris showed exploitation films downstairs, and adult films in the former balcony, now called the “Adult Penthouse” after another name change.

View from the side of the balcony.

On June 29, 1974, Francis W. Sargent, the Governor of Massachusetts at the time, signed a obscenity legislation into law, which forced the Paris to stop showing adult films. This lead to the theater closing once again in 1977.  Cinema 320, a group of cinephiles, rented the theater in the fall of 1980 to show films that weren’t normally shown at larger theater chains. This lasted until April 1, 1982, when the theater’s owner informed the group that he had found a new tenant that was willing to pay more and they had a month to vacate. The final film shown at the Paris by Cinema 320 was “Casablanca.” The Paris reopened as an adult theater in June of 1982.

The Paris closed for a short time in July 2001 after one of the walls in the upper theaters collapsed.

During the early 2000’s the Paris closed and reopened a few times. Worcester police began to raid the theater due to allegations that sex acts were taking place during the films. The Paris closed for good in January 2006 after 29 people were arrested during one weekend raid. Robert J. Hurwitz, the owner of the Paris Cinema, sold the building in July 2006 to the Mayo Group for $1.15 million. Mayo had begun converting the buildings around the theater into a student village under the name Worcester Commons, LLC, but did not have any immediate plans for the Paris.

The Paris Cinema sign was donated to Preservation Worcester in 2012, and sold at a fundraising event that fall.

In 2016, the Mayo Group sought a waiver to the city’s one year demolition delay ordinance for historic buildings from the Worcester Historical Commission. According to the Mayo Group, it would cost at least $21 million to stabilize the building and bring it up to code, but only $500,000 to completely demolish it. They argued that keeping the building standing another year would pose an economic hardship for them. The Historical Commission voted 4-1 to grant the waiver. Demolition began in the summer of 2017, and they plan on turning the space into a beer garden with an outdoor performance area.

 

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Snapshot: Hollywood Theatre

Post 3 in the Snapshot Series  – Occasionally in my travels I come across a theater that I can’t find a lot of information on, or that I only have a chance to photograph for an hour or two. They’re still beautiful and fascinating, so they definitely have a place on After the Final Curtain.

 

View of the auditorium from the divided balcony.
View of the auditorium from the divided balcony.

Originally billed as the “Pride of the East Side,” the Hollywood Theatre, located in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan, opened on March, 11 1926. It was operated by the Mayer and Schneider (M&S) Circuit, and designed by architect Harrison G. Wiseman, who is also known for the nearby Village East Cinemas. According to an account in the Motion Picture News, the crowd on opening night was so large that the police had to cordon the entrance prevent them from storming the theater. The opening was attended by a number of that era’s stars of stage and screen including; George Walsh, Wally Van, Julia Faye, and Edna Purviance.

The balcony level was used as storage after the orchestra level was converted to retail space.
The balcony level was used as storage after the orchestra level was converted to retail space.

The 1,303 seat theater was later managed by RKO and Loew’s Inc. before closing in 1959. After the theater closed, the orchestra level of the auditorium and the lobby were converted into separate retail spaces. The former orchestra level became a series of grocery stores, beginning with a Pioneer Supermarket in 1960. In early 2012, it was announced that the East Farms Supermarket, the latest tenant to occupy the space, would close and the building would be demolished to make way for an eight-story condo building with retail space on the main floor. Demolition began in 2014, and the new building is scheduled to open in the winter of 2016.

A Kimball organ was installed in the theater when it opened, and was removed after it closed.
A Kimball organ was installed in the theater when it opened in 1926, and was removed after it closed.

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Theater Updates

In light of the recent demolition of the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia, I thought I’d post an update for some of the theaters I’ve visited over the years.

 

View from the balcony of the Loew's Kings Theatre during renovation.
View from the balcony of the Loew’s Kings Theatre during renovation.

The Loew’s Kings Theatre in Brooklyn has undergone a $94 million restoration, and will reopen as a performing arts center in late 2014/early 2015.

The large mirrors in the Boyd's lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.
The large mirrors in the Boyd’s lobby are some of the art deco features that will be preserved.

The Boyd Theatre was demolished in the spring of 2014, despite the efforts of the Friends of the Boyd. This demolition means that Philadelphia is one of the only large cities in America without at least one restored downtown movie palace. Fortunately, the Friends of the Boyd were able to come to an agreement with the owners to preserve some of the art deco features of the theater.

Continue reading “Theater Updates”

Shapshot: Liberty Theatre

Introducing: the Snapshot Series  – Occasionally in my travels I come across a theater that I can’t find a lot of information on, or that I only have a chance to photograph for an hour or two. They’re still beautiful and fascinating, so they definitely have a place on After the Final Curtain.

View from the back of the auditorium.
View from the back of the auditorium.

The Liberty Theatre opened in 1922 in Dorchester, MA. It was operated by New England Theatres and showed primarily silent films. The 898-seat theater was in poor shape by 1941 and was later sold to ATC Theatres. In 1949, the Liberty was remodeled and reopened as an art house theater, but ended up closing in the 1950s. It was used as a household appliance warehouse in the 1960’s and later as a church until 1977, when it was converted to a warehouse for storage.

The lobby of the Liberty Theatre.
The lobby of the Liberty Theatre.

The Liberty Theatre was demolished in early 2013.

A lot of the original decor survived the theater's transformations over the years.
Much of the theater had been demolished before I had the chance to photograph it.
A close up of the proscenium arch.
A close up of the proscenium arch.
A close up of some of the remaining plasterwork in the lobby.
A close up of some of the remaining plasterwork in the lobby.

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© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Eastown Theatre

The Eastown is one of the 22 theaters in my new book “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.” Find out more here.

View of the auditorium from the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Eastown Theatre opened on October 1, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. It was built by the architectural firm of V.J. Waiver and Company for the Wisper and Westman Theatre chain. Designed in a Baroque architectural style, the 2,500 seat theater was built for motion pictures and did not have live performances until much later. Most movie palace openings were a grand event, and the Eastown was no exception. Newspaper ads proclaimed the opening to be, “the most glorious event in the history of east Detroit.” The opening film was Clark Gable’s first starring role “Sporting Blood.”

Continue reading “Eastown Theatre”

Montauk Theatre

The Montauk Theatre during demolition

The Montauk Theatre opened on January 30, 1924 in Passaic, NJ on the site of a former vaudeville theater — also called the Montauk Theatre — that was popular in the early 1900’s. Designed by local architect Abram Presikel in the Adamesque style, the theater sat 2,638 people and was operated by the Fabian Enterprises theater chain (which was known for showing both First National Pictures and Warner Bros. films).   Continue reading “Montauk Theatre”