The American Shakespeare Theatre opened on July 12, 1955 in Stratford, CT. Construction of the building began in 1954, and cost $1 million or $9.3 million when adjusted for inflation. It was commissioned by the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre and Academy (ASFTA), which was formed by Lawrence Langner, a co-founder of The Theatre Guild. Langner formed the ASFTA to create American interpretations of William Shakespeare’s plays in Connecticut.
The final full season was in 1982, with performances of “King Henry IV,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Hamlet.” In 1983, the theater was bought by the state of Connecticut for $1 million due to the threat of foreclosure. The American Shakespeare Theatre Corp. was given a 20 year, $1 a year lease but financial issues continued and the summer productions were canceled in 1986.
In 1989 the theater was closed. The final production was one-person show of the Tempest. Connecticut turned the property over to the town of Stratford in 2005 after a few failed attempts to develop the property. On January 13, 2019, a fire destroyed the theater. The cause is currently unknown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Post 4 in the SnapshotSeries – 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
The Boyd 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.
The Boyd Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania‘s only art deco movie palace, opened on Christmas Day in 1928. Located in Philadelphia’s Center City neighborhood, the 2,450 seat theater was commissioned by Alexander Boyd and built by Hoffman-Henon, a Philadelphia architecture firm also known for the construction of the nearby Prince Music Theatre. One of the companies commissioned for the Boyd’s interior decorationwas the Rambusch Company, who later decorated the Loew’s Kings Theatre.
Unlike many theaters built in the 1920’s, the Boyd was originally intended to be a movie theater and, although there were backstage dressing rooms, did not feature vaudeville shows. According to the opening day brochure the Boyd was dedicated to women’s progress throughout history. This appreciation for women is referenced throughout the theater, especially in several murals, one of which shows an Amazonian queen fighting African and Asian armies.
Alexander Boyd sold the theater to the Stanley Warner company, which ran many of downtown Philadelphia’s theaters, after the construction was completed. Shortly after the Boyd changed hands a Kimball theater organ was installed. It remained in the theater until 1969, when it was removed it was the last theater organ in a downtown Philadelphia theater. Various movie premieres were held at the theater over the years, including “Rocky III,” and “Philadelphia.” At the premiere of “Philadelphia” actor Tom Hanks is said to have remarked “Oh, a real movie theater!” when entering the Boyd.
After being sold in 1971, the Boyd was renamed the SamEric by it’s new owners, the Sameric Corporation. They renovated the theater and eventually added three additional auditoriums next to the original, which was renamed again as SamEric 4. The theater closed and was slated for demolition in 2002 before a group of concerned citizens formed the “Committee to Save the SamEric” (which later became “Friends of the Boyd”) to save the theater from demolition. In the following ten years several attempts were made to restore the theater, without success.
In 2013, Florida theater chain iPic agreed to lease the building from developer Neal Rodin. iPic planned to restore the facade, and gut the interior of the theater to build an eight screen theater as well as a restaurant. Since the Boyd was listed on the National Register of Historic Places the Philadelphia Historical Commission met to vote to approve iPic’s plans. On March 14, 2014, after hearing the opinions of many Philadelphians for and against the demolition, the Commission voted to approve the plans. However, iPic’s plans fell through and in December 2014 Pearl Properties bought the property for $4.5 million. Pearl began demolition of the auditorium on March 14, 2015. Tatel, a Spanish restaurant, is opening in the former lobby and foyer of the Boyd. The Harper, a 27 story apartment tower, was built in place of the demolished auditorium. The Friends of the Boyd saved a number of artifacts from the Boyd before it was demolished, and have donated them to other theaters, including the Lansdowne Theatre in Lansdowne, PA.
The Paramount 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.
The Liberty Theatre opened on February 11, 1918 in Youngstown, Ohio. It was designed by architect C. Howard Crane, later known for designing the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. The 1,800 seat Liberty opened as a vaudeville theater, and was managed by C.W. Diebel. Diebel’s father had built a theater on the same lot as the Liberty, but it was demolished to make way for what would become the Paramount Theatre. According to an account in the Motion Picture News, the theater cost $500,000 to build (or $8.8 million when adjusted for inflation.)
The exterior of the building was constructed with white glazed terra cotta, and the interior was decorated in the Adamesque style. Due to the Liberty’s wartime construction, it was very difficult to get the steel required for the framework. In 1929 the Liberty was purchased by Paramount Pictures and renamed the Paramount Theatre. Paramount Pictures spent $200,000 modernizing the building and installing a sound system so the theater could show sound films (or ”talkies”). The Paramount thrived for more than 50 years before closing in 1976. The theater reopened for two days in late 1984 to host “Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. Steel Mill Movie Day.” People were given a short brief on the current state of the steel industry, a tour of the theater, and shown a film about the mill.
In April 2006 Grande Venues, Inc. purchased the Paramount. They planned to reuse it by adding a dance hall on the main floor and a one- or two-screen movie theater in the balcony. However, the restoration plans were never applied and the building was purchased by the city of Youngstown in 2011.
The Paramount Project, a group working to reuse the building in some capacity, wanted to save the facade for a small restaurant, and construct an amphitheater where the auditorium was located. However, two separate studies found that if the walls of the theater were removed, the facade would likely collapse. It would cost between 1.3 and 1.6 million dollars to shore the facade enough to survive the demolition. Due to the cost, the Paramount Project walked away from the building and in July 2013 it was demolished. The city turned the space into a parking lot.