Columbus Theatre

270 Broadway,
Providence, RI 02903

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Showing 26 - 50 of 51 comments

brianmichela on August 30, 2005 at 7:44 am

“Le Bonheur” also happened to be one of the last legitimate films to play the Art Cinema in 1967 before it switched to exploitation.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 27, 2005 at 2:55 pm

It was not the best location for an art house, despite the excellent programs when it was one. Sex did what “art” couldn’t. Not that they couldn’t overlap. Agnes Varda’s Le Bonheur had a six-month or more run in the Studio Cinema upstairs.

brianmichela on August 27, 2005 at 8:32 am

Jon Berberian, the theater’s owner, once stated in an interview that he lost money showing art films, with only a handful of people in the audience night after night, that is, until he booked a foreign film called “The Doll.” Ticket sales went through the roof.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 20, 2005 at 10:29 am

The Studio Cinema, created from the balcony of the Columbus Theatre, opened on November 24, 1965. The first program was the Italian film White Voices, about the amorous adventures of Italian castrati, singers de-testicled to maintain beautiful voices in the upper singing register but who were still able to have sex…and without the danger of impregnating women. Here is the opening day ad.. Both upstairs and downstairs would be art-house venues for a few years until both screens became used for porno…a policy that lasted over three and a half decades.

snorwood on August 16, 2005 at 12:08 pm

I’m glad that you enjoyed those shows. Black Pirate was a recently struck 35mm print and in excellent shape. Buddy was shown on video tape (Digi-Beta) using a projector on loan from Sony Corporation.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 14, 2005 at 4:13 pm

For the finale of the 9th R.I. International Film Festival this evening at the Columbus Theatre, the presentation was a 35mm copy of the two-strip Technicolor version of the 1926 The Black Pirate with Douglas Fairbanks. It was a wonder to behold. 1926 was the year the Columbus opened and this was the festival’s tribute to the place. The accompanying music was provided by the unique Alloy Orchestra.

Preceding the feature was a surviving fragment of the 1916 My Lady of the Lilacs, made by the Rhode Island company called Eastern Film Corporation and now preserved by the Rhode Island Historical Society.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 12, 2005 at 12:59 pm

The manager told me that singer Jerry Vale was in the audience for the Buddy premiere. He had sung in a concert at the theatre a good number of years before.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 12, 2005 at 2:21 am

Last night the Columbus Theatre, playing host to the Rhode Island International Film Festival, premiered the documentary film Buddy, by Cherry Arnold. The movie is about former Providence Major Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., now serving time in prison on a criminal racketeering conviction. Ironically, when Cianci was mayor, he had tried to shut down the Columbus Theatre, which was then a porno house, and wanted to turn it into a high school for the performing arts. Here is a Providence Journal article reporting on the premiere.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2005 at 9:27 am

RobertR, great collection of photos! I always wanted to see the inside of the stratospheric original booth…now a ghost booth. I saw movies in the ‘40s, '50s, and early '60s at what was then the Uptown, and I remember that beam of light descending like a ray of sunlight bursting through the ceiling.

snorwood on June 20, 2005 at 7:21 am

Almost certainly. They employed two projectionists at the time and it would have been trivially easy to carry the reels up and down the ladder from the main booth to the Studio Cinema booth.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 20, 2005 at 7:05 am

In November of 1969 the Swedish sex film I Am Curious (Yellow) had been playing here for three months, on the main screen at 7 & 9:15 and on the upstairs Studio Cinema screen at 8 P.M. It is possible they were using one print and bicycling reels from one level to the other.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 14, 2005 at 5:07 am

For many decades this theatre was known as the Uptown. That name can still be seen in the floor tiling at the entrance.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 13, 2005 at 12:52 pm

Although the original seating capacity of the Columbus was 1492 (get it? Columbus, 1492), when the balcony was sectioned off to form the Studio Cinema, the seating capacities changed to the following: Main auditorium: 900, Studio: 274.

snorwood on March 8, 2005 at 4:01 pm

For what it’s worth, we will be playing “Wings of Desire” at the Columbus on March 20 at 3pm. It will be 35mm, though it remains to be seen if we will get one of the new prints from two years ago (which is what we requested).

snorwood on February 22, 2005 at 7:37 am

I don’t know, but I doubt it. Probably DVD or maybe Beta. We usually try to run 35mm in the main house whenever possible. Video actually looks OK in the balcony, however. For the festival, we run all formats (Beta SP, Digi-Beta, DVD, 16mm, and 35mm) in both houses. We have run HD video in the big house as well. For some reason, the programmers seem to love to mix multiple formats in one show, which gets “interesting.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 22, 2005 at 7:19 am

Were the three films in the recent Alliance Française French Film Festival 35mm prints??? Since I had read that they were being shown in the balcony, I suspected video projection would be used.

snorwood on February 22, 2005 at 7:01 am

I’m one of the projectionists for the RI Film Fest. I took the pictures on Film-Tech (also on Cinema Tour) in 2002 during the festival. Since then, we have installed xenon lamps in the booth (replacing some very worn-out arc lamps) in the former balcony and can run 35mm there as well as in the main auditorium. The festival office is located above the theatre lobby. A barber shop is also located in the building.

teecee on February 11, 2005 at 1:55 pm

More extensive photos at

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 18, 2004 at 8:49 am

The Columbus is now closed for regular movies but opened for special events: musical performances, the Rhode Island International Film Festival, special film programs, etc.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 14, 2004 at 7:14 am

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a 35mm presentation of Buster Keaton’s masterpiece using a complete and restored print, proper aspect ratio, and accompanied by the wonderful Alloy Orchestra of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The showing at the beautiful Columbus Theatre in Providence was a benefit for the Rhode Island International Film Festival. So much has been written on this wondrous comedy of Keaton, it seems silly to add more except to say that the audience was bowled over by it and vociferous in its enthusiasm. The train chase sequences are inimitable and have never been duplicated even with greater technical resources at hand in later decades. Yes, the music was tremendous, but the ability of this silent treasure to generate such audience excitement today was truly gratifying. And such a gem of a cinema treasure to see it in…what a joyous combination!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 17, 2004 at 11:55 am

This theatre is actually a two-screen theatre. The balcony was scetioned off in the 60s and for a long while art house fare was programmed on both the downstairs screen and the upstairs one which was known as the “Studio Cinema.” The Studio screen was used, like the downstairs one, when the theatre was a porno house for over thirty years. Both screens are used during the annual Rhode Island Film Festival.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 13, 2004 at 6:23 am

The Columbus, known for decades as the Uptown, is one of the two most beautiful Rhode Island theatres, the other being the former Loew’s State (now the Providence Performing Arts Center). As a lover of Italian films, I have a special interest in the history of the Columbus/Uptown for it was here that I saw Italian films for the first time in the early 50’s. I remember in particular going with my parents to see OUTCRY (IL SOLE SORGE ANCORA, Aldo Vergano) in 1951. Later I saw De Sica’s UMBERTO D and Visconti’s BELLISSIMA here for the first time. My researches show that from the early 30’s to the 50’s the theatre very often booked short runs of Italian-language films, often unsubtitled, for the Italian-speaking audience on Federal Hill, Providence’s “Little Italy”. They also had Italian-language stage shows. In the 30’s pro-Mussolini documentaries were occasionally featured: MUSSOLINI SPEAKS: STUDY OF THE DUCE AND ITALY IN RECENT YEARS in 1933, ITALO-ETHIOPIA WAR FILMS in 1936, THE STRENGTH OF THE NEW ITALY in 1937, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF MUSSOLINI in 1938. Generally, besides normal American second run double bills, they showed shorter runs of popular Italian films for the ethnic audiences, including in 1931 the first American-made Italian film (made in New Jersey): SEI TU L’AMORE, which proved so popular it was repeated in 1933. Other relatively significant Italian movies shown here in the 30’s-50’s were ZAPPATORE (silent), the grand Roman epic SCIPIO AFRICANUS, the Neapolitan/English New Jersey-made hybrid SANTA LUCIA LUNTANA, LA CANZONE DELL’AMORE (first Italian sound feature; the theatre still owns a poster!), Blasetti’s TERRA MADRE, ETTORE FIERAMOSCA, and TIMES GONE BY, Alessandrini’s FURIA (later remade by Cukor as WILD IS THE WIND, and dozens and dozens of films with the irrepressible Italian comic, Toto’. Sometimes they did move-overs of popular Italian films subtitled for general audiences, such as THE BICYCLE THIEF, BITTER RICE, SHOE SHINE, ANNA.
Footnote: In 1962 I had the pleasure of attending a recital here by legendary Italian Tenor Tito Schipa.

artstar on February 23, 2004 at 10:48 am

Hello to the website designer – this posting from Charles Van Bibber clearly says who the architect is and the chain that handled the original bookings – RKO. Perhaps you could update the info at the top of the page?

“designed by Oreste Di Saia in 1926. Oreste was also know for designing the Metropolitan Theatre in New York City.
The Columbus seated 1,492 when it opened on November 1, 1926. It was renamed the Uptown Theatre during a period of time when the bookings were handled by RKO. ”

A. Michelle