Hi Everyone – I’ll be speaking about my upcoming book, After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater, at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts on November 13 at 6:30 PM.
The State Theatre in Stoughton, Massachusetts opened on December 8, 1927. It was built on the site of Atwood’s Market, a local shopping center that was destroyed by a fire earlier that year. The Interstate Theatre Corporation purchased the lot and hired the Boston architecture firm of Funk and Wilcox, who were mostly known for designing apartment buildings, to design the theater. John P. Curley, a Boston contractor, constructed the 1,100 seat atmospheric theater for $100,000, or $1.4 million when adjusted for inflation.
The opening day kicked off with a performance by Ed Andrews and his Nautical Garden Orchestra, followed by “Revue Les Arts,” a vaudeville comedy review. The main attraction was a showing of the silent film “Smile, Brother, Smile,” starring Jack Mulhall, Dorothy Mackaill and E.J. Ratcliffe. A newsreel and two other vaudeville acts capped off the festivities. John Kenne, the State’s organist, played the Estey Pipe Organ throughout the day.
By 1940, the theater was renamed the Interstate State Theatre, and had been converted into a talking motion picture house. The nearby Stoughton High School held class plays and graduations at the State. The theater was modernized in 1970 — the box seats and some of the atmospheric ornamentation in the auditorium were removed and covered with red drapes, and modern seats were installed on the orchestra level. The theater then became the Stoughton Cinema.
By the 1990s the theater had been renamed once again and was known as the Stoughton Cinema Pub, a second run movie house that served beer. The theater closed just six days short of its 80th birthday on December 2, 2007. The final production was a live performance of “A Christmas Carol“ by local theater troupe The Little Theatre of Stoughton, who had been performing at the theater since 1999. According to Mike Harmen, the manager at the time of the theater’s closing, it cost close to $3,000 a month to heat the auditorium in the winter, and it was the cost of utilities that caused the theater to close.
The Friends of the State Theatre was formed shortly after the theater closed, intending to restore and reopen the theater as a performing arts center. To that end, they have signed a 20-year lease and were awarded non-profit status in February 2013. They have received grants from the town of Stoughton and the state of Massachusetts, and around $700,000 in donations from private donors and businesses. The Friends aim to raise between $2.5 and $3 million to restore the theater.
The Everett Square Theatre opened in 1915 in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. It was designed by Boston architect Harry M. Ramsay for the Littlefield Trust, the original owner of the theater. The 798 seat theater cost $65,000 ($1.5 million in 2014 when adjusted for inflation) to build, and was part of the M&P Theatre circuit.
Help me pick the next blog post on After the Final Curtain! Cast a vote for the theater you’d like to see next on the site, and whichever has the most votes by Thursday 6/19 will be featured in a blog post on Friday 6/20!
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.
I recently spoke with Kathy McKean – the Managing Director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. MIFA owns and is renovating the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, MA.
1. What is MIFA?
“MIFA is a Holyoke based International Festival that brings world-class events to Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley. MIFA’s 2011 Season included Hal Holbrook in ‘Mark Twain Tonight’ and Silent Film Night The Last Command. Other presentations in Holyoke have been Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, contemporary Irish Dance in ‘Irish Cream’, Eddie Palmieri in Concert, a series of French Dance, Enchanted Circle Theatre in ‘Sojourners Truth’ and Mikhail Baryshnikov 2004 World Tour. MIFA is a vehicle for community restoration and historic and architectural preservation and is renovating and reopening the historic Victory Theatre, a 1600 hundred-seat Broadway style theater in downtown Holyoke. The iconic theater will be returned to its original use as a live theater house for Holyoke, the Valley and the Northeast.”
View of the stage from the main floor of the Orpheum Theatre
I recently spoke with Lance Gunberg, a graphic designer and filmmaker who is also the president of Orpheum Rising Project Helpers or O.R.P.H, Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving the theater.