Majestic Theatre

201 Washington Street,
Providence, RI 02903

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 15, 2005 at 5:08 am

Told to Shun Baby Doll
In January of 1957, when Elia Kazan/Tennessee Williams Baby Doll was playing at the Majestic, the Most Rev. Russell J. McVinney, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, had told Rhode Island Catholics that they should not see the picture. I myself remember, as a student at LaSalle Academy at the time, that we were told by the principal in a P.A. announcement that the film was off-limits. A Providence Journal article from January 14 reported that Rev. Augustine F. Burns, pastor of Saint Mark’s Church in Jamestown, reminded his parishioners at services that they could not see the picture which was playing in Providence and also in Newport. Here is an ad for the film.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 8, 2005 at 3:37 am

In January, 1965 a newspaper ad for the Majestic promoted a film called Guess What and the Single Girl. I think the Providence Journal might not have been accepting film titles containing the word “sex.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 24, 2005 at 11:38 am

The world premiere of the wartime film about an aircraft carrier, Wing and a Prayer, took place here on July 28, 1944. A day later stars Dana Andrews and Sir Cedric Hardwicke made appearances on stage at the Majestic. The Quonset Officers Glee Club sang. Here is the opening day newspaper ad for the program.

brianmichela
brianmichela on August 24, 2005 at 11:11 am

I saw “The Graduate” the first Saturday after it opened at the Majestic. Having read the book, I was quite anxious to see it, too. I enjoyed the movie so much that I sat through it twice. After hearing me praise it so much, a classmate promptly rushed to see it. To my surprise, he was denied admission. “Adults Only!” and “No One Under 18 Admitted” were written on signs taped to the box office window. He did return a few days later with his older sister and her husband who purchased the tickets.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 22, 2005 at 2:55 pm

And heeeere’s the photo I described above but didn’t link you to.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 22, 2005 at 7:47 am

In this 1948 photo, on the left, we see the Chestnut Street marquee of the Metropolitan Theatre. Beyond the bus, we see Empire Street. The Majestic Theatre is the white bit near the top right. The point of this posting is to show you the relative locations of the two theatres. The photo was taken by Fred Deusch, then an usher at the Met.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 13, 2005 at 5:31 am

On May 1st, 1968 the film The Graduate was in its twelfth week here.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2005 at 5:47 am

An ad in the 1936 commemorative book Tercentenary, Providence and Rhode Island by four downtown Providence theatres, listed theatre names and managers:

PROVIDENCE DOWNTOWN THEATRES

MAJESTIC
Bernard M. Fay, Manager
R.K.O. ALBEE
Edward A. Zorn, Manager
LOEW’S STATE
Howard C. Burkhardt, Manager
STRAND
Edward R. Reed Manager

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 24, 2005 at 3:25 am

Better image than I posted earlier of the interior and stage of the Majestic.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 19, 2005 at 12:25 pm

From Buildings of Rhode Island by William H. Jordy, 2004:

“Best of all is the front of the Lederer Theatre, a fantasy version of the Roman triumphal arch motif. Pastel colors in bone white again, lemon yellow, and lime green make this an exceptionally subtle example of commercial terra-cotta. A delicately detailed two-story lobby topped with a stained glass oval dome has been partially restored. Providence’s own George M. Cohan appeared in two productions here before it was converted from stage shows to movies in 1923, reverting to dramatic theatre in 1971 as the home of the important Trinity Repertory Theatre. It was then that the cavernous, ornamented interior was gutted to provide for two replacement theatres, one above the other, in the stripped bare brick manner prevalent for theater reuse in the early 1970s.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2005 at 3:27 am

The beginnings of the Majestic…as described by Roger Brett in his 1976 volume on Providence theatres, Temples of Illusion:

“The Majestic seated 3,000, as many people as the Opera House and the Imperial (now Colonial) put together, at least a thousand more than Keith’s. When it opened with five acts of vaudeville and movies on April 9, 1917, it was another Emery challenge to Keith supremacy…. Its stage was the equal of the Imperial and the front of the house was better.

“Once again, the Emery Brothers had commissioned the architectural firm of William Walker and Son to design their Majestic. As usual, the architects turned out a superior piece of work…. The fundamental Italianate mass of this structure is embellished with cornices and rounded entablatures of French influence. A lofty arch rises four storeys at the center of the front. This contains the main entrance doors surmounted by large windows which permit the lobbies to be flooded with outside light. (…)

“The Majestic’s auditorium had a strong art nouveau influence…. Here again, the underlying architecture was Italianate, as revealed in the curve of arches and the solid square lines of boxes. Decorative plaster work of the vast proscenium which encompassed a full third of the auditorium, and the muraled panels of its sounding boards, were typically American art nouveau, circa 1916….

“Gold shades were used…on ornamentation with murals carried out in fairly brilliant hues. Wall surfaces were in deep tints of cream and biege….

“The Emery Majestic was a vaudeville house for exactly nine months….Upon opening in April [the Emery brothers] had simply shifted their vaudeville bookings from the two-and-one-half year old Emery to the new house. And the fact that the Majestic could seat almost twice as many customers didn’t necessarily mean that that many more people would show up to buy tickets. (…)

“Over the years, the stage of the Schubert Majestic knew the lights and laughter of Hello, Alexander starring McIntyre and Heath, Cinderella on Broadway, The Whirl of New York, Al Jolson in Sinbad…in Bombo. Chu Chin Chow, largest musical production ever to play a theater in Providence was at the Majestic, elephants and all.

“The Schubert Majestic was the place where everyone wanted to go.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 27, 2005 at 11:34 am

The architectural firm that built the Majestic was William R. Walker & Son, according to a plaque that is next to the current Trinity Rep entrance.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2005 at 3:35 am

Federico Fellini’s then-scandalous La Dolce Vita had its first R.I. showings here starting in September of 1961. It seems to have done very well, and the booking of a foreign-film in its original language version with subtitles was unusual for the place (although there was some history of the theatre occasionally presenting Italian-language films on slow nights for the Italian-speaking community.) Another Mastroianni film, Casanova ‘70, also later played here in a subtitled version sometime in 1965.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 18, 2005 at 1:40 am

PROVIDENCE THEATRES: “TEMPLES OF ILLUSION"
A book called "Temples of Illusion,” by Roger Brett, was published in 1976. It is Mr. Brett’s detailed history of all the old downtown area theatres of Providence from 1871 to 1950. It includes numerous rare photos, a list of theatres with name changes, and a map to show exactly where they all were. The book is an invaluable resource and is owned by many libraries in the R.I. CLAN system. I found a copy for sale online and will use it as a reference for future postings.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2005 at 2:22 am

First Vitaphone anywhere???
Television has no future???

An article in the Rhode Islander section of the Providence Sunday Journal for April 20, 1947 wrote of Edward M. Fay, “the dean of R.I. showmen,” who owned the Majestic, Fays, the Rialto, the Carlton and other venues. The article asserts that Mr. Fay was the first in the nation to wire a theatre (the Majestic) for Vitaphone. Here follow excerpts:

“Mr. Fay was the first man in the country who mustered enough faith in the garrulous movies to have a theatre (the Majestic) wired for them. He offered the Vitaphone tio the world on Christmas Day in 1926, and everybody knows what happened since…”

And on the future of television the Journal quoted Mr. Fay as saying, “I think television has had the greatest promotion the country has ever seen…but I don’t think it will compete with movies or with radio in the home. Commercially I can’t see it at all. It’s all right for a championship prize fight or football game, but that’s about all. I can’t see it.”

I wonder if by the time Mr. Fay died in 1964 he had realized the enormous threat (among other threats) to movie theatres that television would represent over the coming decades, so much so that all the theatres he owned or ran in Providence would be demolished or gutted for other uses?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 15, 2005 at 2:05 am

The theatre was previously known (circa the 1920s) as Emery’s Majestic. Down on Mathewson Street was the Emery Theatre which later became the Carlton. Emery’s Majestic is listed in the 1925 Providence Journal Almanac as having a seating capacity of 2500. Other data: proscenium opening, 40x36 feet; footlights to back wall, 33 feet; between side walls, 80 feet; height to gridiron, 60 feet.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 14, 2005 at 8:50 am

Here is the other photo of the exterior from 1944. And here is a photo of the
interior .
That White Tower later became the Californian, I believe. Now it’s a parking garage. The other White Towers I knew were on Dorrance Street and in Olneyville Square. They seemed so spiffy and “cool”.

Roland L.
Roland L. on April 14, 2005 at 8:15 am

Gerald, no I didn’t!! I admit that I would not have known that it was a White Tower. My mother kept always mentioned a White Tower. I would correct her and iterate it was White Castle and we’d go round and round.

Moms are always right!!

I just blew up the picture. Carmen Miranda is on the smaller corner marquee.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 14, 2005 at 7:24 am

Roland, That IS a nice photo. I have a photo which might have been taken around the same time, which I take to be 1944 or so. It’s the same angle and everything, except that there was an Abbott and Costello film program, plus cars and a bus to be seen. The vertical marquee is a gem. In this picture did you note the mill-factory to the left beyond LaSalle Square where the Dunkin' Donuts Center is now? And to the right on Washington Street you can see the White Tower, the hamburger place.

Roland L.
Roland L. on April 14, 2005 at 1:09 am

I just love this picture of the Majestic. Note the name Don Ameche to the right.

I recall Don Ameche hosting this Circus show and I believe it was on Sunday nights.

View link

teecee
teecee on January 25, 2005 at 1:22 pm

Here is the homepage for the Trinity Square Repertory Theater:
http://www.trinityrep.com/
If you click on “about us” and then “Lederer Theater” you’ll find the entire history of the theater.

Elsie
Elsie on August 5, 2004 at 11:04 am

I remember this beautiful theatre from the early 1960s. All the Walt Disney movies used to be shown there; I remember that the two lines at the box office for MARY POPPINS completely surrounded the building, even back to the printer’s shop in the rear. The rest rooms were downstairs, with upholstered chairs where the ladies could sit while waiting. Yes, the interior of the theatre was gutted out for Trinity Rep, but at least they didn’t knock the whole beautiful structure down for some glass and concrete modern abomination.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 16, 2004 at 9:32 am

The theatre opened in 1917 with vaudeville as well as movies.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 14, 2004 at 6:57 am

Sorry, the title of the “big-ant” movie was THEM!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 14, 2004 at 6:51 am

In 1953 this was the theatre that introduced CinemaScope showings to Providence with the local premiere of THE ROBE. I remember attending a jam-packed showing with my parents. When the theatre showed Elia Kazan’s BABY DOLL in the late 50’s, R.I. Catholics were asked at mass (and in the Catholic high school school I attended) not to see this “sinful” movie. PEYTON PLACE was a big hit here when I was in high school and I remember going to see it after an exam. The big-ant movie, seen here, scared the wits out of me. When Trinity Rep took over the theatre several decades ago, they ruthlessly gutted the lavish interior. Only part of the lobby and most of the exterior remain unchanged.