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Thanks for bringing my memory into focus!
I still mourn the loss of the Center theatre. What a treasure that was and appreaciate the history details you mentioned in your entry above. I only wish someone had photos of this theatre, both the exterior and interior were interesting from an “deco” point of view.
I live down in the south here in Roanoke, VA and all but one theatre is gone. Most people around here have memories of only but one or two theatres that were here but I know due to the size of the city there were many more. Fortunatly we still have the Grandin Theatre which is in a nice little neighborhood not far from where I live. It’s an old theatre that has been restored but it is not an Architecual wonder. Nevertheless the Grandin provides this city with many films which never would be featured at the mulitplexes. I am grateful to this organization and contribute what I can to keep this theatre going.
Mr. Deluca, in your June 26, 2006 entry you state; “The Center closed in May, 1977”. Yet in your June 27, 2006 entry it is noted that “on Tuesday, February 6, 1978, people came in off the street seeking refuge in the Center lobby. Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta was on one screen, Heroes with Henry Winkler was on the other.”. Had the Center closed in 1977 and then re-open for a short time or could the information in regard to the 1977 closing be in error?.
Also was it the Academy and the Strand (Cinema I) which were the 2 x-rated theatre? I also seem to recall at that time a small theatre further south on Main St. which featured x-rated movies too. I believe it was not far accross the street from the old Capital Theatre (which was then a bolling alley or furniture store?) and was housed in what had been a small threatre long shuttered before it became an “x” house. Forgive me here as I am really picking my memory from decades ago!!
I wish I could help you on the photos of the Durfee Theatre, Id love to see some myself. I suppose your best source for photos for the Durfee or any theatre in Fall River would be the microfiche for Fall River Herald News.
As far as my “climactic” finale goes, lets just say it was a “slip of the tongue” ;)
Mr. DeLuca, You may be right on US 6 taking you through Downtown Fall River and Up Pleasant ST. which would have taken you by the Stand Theartre. However, back in the 50s and 60s Roads in and out of Fall River as is many places were going through tremendous change and my hunch is that US 6 was re-routed a number of times through the city. I do believe that I-195 going right through downtown Fall River probably doomed many downtown theatres earlier than other areas. Even though no theatres were taken by this highway the whole project ripped the heart out of downtown and made this area for years a horrible place to be. I couldn’t believe the day I saw the beautiful old granite city hall fall. This building was the anchor of downtown dividing North Main Street from South Main Street. I remember at this time my folks opting to go from Somerset to Taunton for shopping and whatever rather than deal with Downtown Fall River.
Thanks for posting the photo and I remember that view of the theatre well. I think of all the theatres in Fall River, the Strand was the newest and most “modern”. Somewhere in a box here in Virginia, I have an old scrapebook of movie ads, mostly cut out from the Herald News that I had kept when I was a child. I will try to dig that up and will scan some of these ads to post here. Most of these adds would have been from the 1958-1960 era and I have a number of them for the Durfee, Empire, Strand, Center and numerous drive ins around the Fall River area.
This website has prompted me to ask fellow Virginians here of movie theatres in the Roanoke area (listing at this website is Very Incomplete) and I am getting many interesting comments about theatres here, including ones that were black only and white only. I also discovered not to far from here in Danville, VA (on the NC border) that there was a movie theatre which seated 5,000 +. My partner Joe, grew up in this area and he has no memory about it but he is sure his Dad will know something of this threatre. More to cum! ;)
The first time I visited this theatre was in 1958 to see “Fatiche di Ercole, Le” (Known as “Hercules”) with Steve Reeves. I also saw “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and “Ercole e la regina di Lidia” (Hercules Unchained). The Strand seemed to showcase childrenâ€™s movies which were not from Disney (the Disney films usually played the Durfee or The Empire and occasionally the Center). I recall seeing a few other films here including “The Nunâ€™s Story” with Audrey Hepburn.
I have no memory of attending any other movies here until 1970 when the musical Scrooge (Albert Finney) was featured. By this time the Strand had re-opened as the Cinema I, after having been closed for a long time, I think from at least the early 60s. During the 1960â€™s I remember there was a period of time when Fall River was down to only 2 theatres, The Durfee and The Center. The Empire theatre I donâ€™t think made it into the 1970s but donâ€™t recall what year this Theatre folded. I believe it was that horrible downtown mall in Fall River that doomed the Empire. By this time I was taking excursions to the new Four Seasons Cinema in RI and the new Brockton Mall Cinema to see the latest releases. The age of the Mall Cinemaâ€™s had arrived!
The only other recollection of this theatre is that they made the saltiest pop-corn I have ever had (probably to boost soda sales). Everytime I eat popcorn today I always think of the salty popcorn from the Strand.
I saw two movies at this theatre when it was the Capitol. One was “The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao” and the other was “The Brass Bottle”, both released in 1964, both featuring Tony Randall.
Back in the Spring of 1964 I had seen “Becket” here (Saxon Theater), a 70MM Roadshow engagement. This film with Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton was a remarkable film and today it is almost forgotten. Norminated for 10 Academy Awards.
My family and I moved to Somerset from Fall River back in June of 1957. I remember visting this theater just once in December of 1957 when my parish (St. Patrick’s of Somerset) had rented the facility for an xmas party for the children of the parish. I think we were shown a number of cartoons and no feature film; i only rememeber a Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoon from that night, nothing else. I do remember waiting outside for a crowd to exit the theater as a regular feature had just ended. This must have been the last days of this threater for my only other memory was of it being closed and as a child wishing it was open so we didnt have to go all the way into Fall River to see a movie.
In regard to the ghp3719 entry on Oct 14, 2004 I have to take exception to this theater’s history. I believe the Somerset Playhouse was contructed much earlier than the early 1950s. And I think it was constructed as both a Playhouse and a Movie Theater, with the idea that in the Summer, plays would be shown and in the Winter it would switch to movie fare. The only reason I say this is that I had a large collection of Playbills and theater progams at one time (which later I sold on e-bay). One of these “programs” was a small 12-16 page booklet for a production at the Somerset Playhouse staring Gertrude Lawrence. Unfortunatly I don’t have the name of the play nor do I have the dates. But I do recall my Mom talking about plays and stars she had seen there.
Prior to this theater becoming a furniture store, the Town of Somerset had looked at this facility and considered to convert into a new library for the town before they decided on a new facility which is located just north on County St(route 138).
Does anyone have a date as to when this theater was torn down? I believe I was 2 years old in 1952 when I was taken here by my folks to see Walt Disney’s Pinoccio. This was probably one of those weekend children’s shows as mentioned in the Oct. 14, 2004 post of ghp3719.
I recall only seeing one movie here and that was Gigi. I am not sure if it was 1958 or 1959. Gigi had itâ€™s world premier in New York in May of 1958 and Fall River being a movie outpost at the time, probably did not get this roadshow attraction until 6 to 9 months later. This engagement at the Capital may actually have been a move-over since the Capital back at that time generally showed re-issues and 2nd run features. I enjoyed this film mostly because of how handsome I though Louis Jordan was (still was in Octopussy ) and also I was a big fan of Hermione Gingold (she was great in The Music Man!). I do recall that the sound system here was great for this film, but being 8 years old at the time I donâ€™t recall anything of the projection quality here. The Capital closed soon after this time and I donâ€™t think ever re-opened as a movie theater. I do remember it being a bowling alley (bowling was going through a huge popularity back then) and not sure when it then became a furniture store. Does anyone know if the same people that managed the Durfee, Empire, Center also owned the Durfee Lanes and the Capital Bowling Alley? Just curious on this.
This is where I saw Ben-Hur back in October of 1960. Back in those days, Fall River did not get films such as Ben-Hur until months after their hard ticket engagements in Boston and Providence had started. I was 10 years old at the time and the main reason I wanted to see this film was my friends at school told me it was a real blood bath. My Mom was not keen on the idea of me going since she felt the film would be too long for me to sit through and too violent (imagine!). Yes, I was impressed with the amount of blood I saw; movies back then were pretty bloodless compared to today (I was not allowed to see Psycho). But viewing this film changed the way I looked at movies forever. At ten years old, I realized what the whole wide screen movie thing was about; Ben-Hur just exploded off the screen. The Center Theatre had decent 70mm projection but I donâ€™t think they had any kind of sound system to match the Cinerama or Elmwood in Providence at this time. I am not sure but I think the only other theater in Fall River to have true 70mm projection was the Strand. The Durfee, the Empire, the Capitol, the Academy did not. I never could understand why the Sound of Music played the Durfee rather than the Center (both of these theaters were under the same ownership). I will write more about this under the Durfee theater page when I have a chance.
I also remember seeing West Side Story here and in this case I recall a much improved sound system for this film. Other films that had played here; the Longest Story, Mutiny on the Bounty, Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady and I guess anything that was big and wide screen.
This is where I had seen Cleopatra as well. By the time this film came to Fall River it had pretty much been edited and chopped down from the 245 minutes in its Boston Music Hall Engagement to 194 minutes. The print I saw here was terrible as well, with a purple strip running down the left side of the screen. I returned with a friend the following week and that same purple strip was still there. I wonder if perhaps this may have been some kind of 35mm print formatted for wide screens? Cleopatra played 4 weeks here and in both times I saw this film the theater was barely a third full. In Fall River the admission for Cleopatra was $2.00. Until then I think the highest admission ever charged in the city was $1.25, and that was for bigger movies like West Side Story. (Generally the admission for most films was $1.00. Children prices were generally 35c except for Walt Disney films where the price went up to 50c! I also remember a time when the Academy charged 10c per child and would show four films and shorts and cartoons for an entire Saturday afternoon.)
I may be wrong but I believe the only film to have a hard ticket engagement at the Center Theater may have been My Fair Lady. It wasnâ€™t long after this that they closed the Center theater and re-opened it as a twin. What a superb job they did, transforming this incredible art deco movie house into a horrible cheesy garish and ugly twin theater. I am not sure of the date they did this but I know when The Singing Nun came out with Debbie Reynolds in 1966, the damage had already been done.
The thing that was unique about the Center was the fact it was constructed just for the main purpose of showing movies; unlike the Durfee, the Empire or the Academy which were converted from Stage or Vaudeville. I wish I had more history on this theater and would love to see some photos of its interior. I recall the brush chrome railings on the staircase leading to the balcony. Also in the main auditorium were images of Greek or Roman Gods on the both sides of the walls. Pure Art Deco elegance and simplicity, and gone forever.
Your memory serves you right. “A Man for All Seasons” played at this theater and I and my Dad drove from Somerset to see it. I had the same curiosity as to why this film opened here instead of the Elmwood Theater. Maybe the “Sound of Music” playing down at the Warwick Cinema was the first to start this trend. I am not sure, but did “Anne of a Thousand Days” play here as well and also the Burton-Taylor “Taming of the Shrew”? 1966, almost 40 years ago!
I am familiar with some New Bedford Theaters but only attended just a few movies there. I do remember seeing “Journey to the Center of The Earth” at the old State Theater (now the Zeiterion Theatre) back at Christmas of 1959. I recall being struck by the fact that the concession stand sold hot dogs. The other thing I remember from this theater was is grand marquee. I never attended Movies at the Empire Theater in New Bedford but have fond memories of my two aunts telling tales of their days of working as usurer-etts during the silent era in the 1920s. How I wish they were still around to retell those tales. My Aunt Donalda also told me of her dating a the gentleman who owned the Arcade Theater in New Bedford.
I have never attended a movie at this theater but my impression was that the Arcade could be considered the Roadshow theatre of New Bedford. I remember Dr. Zhivago playing here on a reserved seat “hard ticket” run. I have vague memories of seeing advertisments in the Sunday Standard Times in regard to this theatres wide screen projection and sound. Does anyone have any info on this?
I saw many films at this theater and always remember how great the 70MM projection and the sound quality was. The first time I visited this theater was in 1959 to see Walt Disneyâ€™s Sleeping Beauty. What a wondrous experience to see this film showcased in a theater with the fine 70mm projection and stereophonic sound that the Elmwood had.
Unfortunately, I did not view my favorite movie of all time at the Elmwood, Lawrence of Arabia. Instead I had opted to see this magnificent film at the old Beacon Hill theater in Boston after it having moved from its initial roadshow hard ticket engagement at the Gary Theater. The Elmwood theater along with the old Cinerama theater on Hope Street were two of the finest theaters for acoustics, sound and projection in the Southeastern New England Area.
It saddens me today, that movies are no longer showcased in true 70MM projection. Shame on the public for accepting motion pictures which are presented in mall megaplex cinemas with inferior acoustics and smaller screens. Sadly, the golden age, when films like Ben-Hur, Spartacus, The Music Man and even the black and white The Apartment demanded the finest in sound and projection presentation, is long gone. Imagine screens that were 93 feet wide. Even some mediocre films such as the MGM 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty were enjoyable due to its astonishing wide-screen presentation. What a tragic shame.
This place is a dump!
I had visited the Durfee Theatre many times and will have some recollections to post on its page. Just discovered this website and already severly addicted! If you and anyone has information on any of the Fall River Theaters I loved when growing up there please contact me at
Growing up in Fall River during the 1950s and 1960s, the Empire Theater was usually the theater that showed most of the horror flicks of this era; House on Haunted Hill, The Screaming Skull, 13 Ghosts (filmed in Illusion-O!), The Angry Red Planet and anything Vincent Price.
The Empire also featured some Walt Disney films as well, a reissue of the 1950 Cinderella (which I saw when I was 6 in 1956), Darby O'Gill and the Little People in 1959 (Staring a very young and extremely handsome pre-James Bond Sean Connery).
This theater had a narrow long corridor (gray and black highly polished marble?) to the lobby, much like the Durfee Theater. As a child would spend much time dawdling down this corridor before and after movies looking at the many posters and lobby cards on display.
I also recall for a period of time (1959 or 1960) the Empire, along with the Center and Durfee theaters had some kind of promotion where you could turn in a wooden token for a free box of popcorn. I donâ€™t recall how one received one of these tokens but all I know is that my older sister and I figured a way of beating the system and we were chopping down box after box of free popcorn!
It was also at the Empire where upon viewing previews of the 1959 Solomon and Sheba, my sister covered my eyes during a shot of Gina Lollobrigida, wearing a costume exposing her rhinestone covered navel. I was prevented from committing a moral sin as most likely this film had been condemned by the Catholic League of Decency. Little did she know I was too busy looking at Yul Brenna <g>.
Even though the theaters in Fall River were closer, we often traveled up from Somerset in the 50s and 60s to see a movie at the Strand. If memory serves me right, I recall the theater had a modern and clean appearance to it. The sound and projection was pretty good and still have vivid memories of seeing “The Music Man” in widescreen here. I am sure this theater had 70MM projection and stereophonic sound. Can anyone confirm this? Am I also correct in that the Strand appeared to have been built for the purpose of showing movies but the Park next door was probably an old vaudeville house converted to show movies?
This theatre by far was one of the best for sound and projection. I saw many movies here. I will never forget Kubick’s “2001”. The sound quality was superb and surpassed anything we have today.