Stanley Center for the Arts

259 Genesee Street,
Utica, NY 13501

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Stanley Theatre, Utic NY, post card view, circa 1929

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Built for the Mastbaum chain and opened on September 10, 1928, the Stanley Theatre is named for one of the Mastbaum brothers. It was designed by the famed theater architect Thomas Lamb and was called by a contemporary Mexican Baroque style. However, it is in reality a mish-mash of various theater styles popular in the 1920’s, including Spanish Baroque, Indian, Middle Eastern and even a touch of Art Deco style. The opening program featured the silent movie “Ramona” starring Dolores del Rio.

The decor is incredibly lavish, including gilded cherubs peeking out from around the organ grills, marble Renaissance lions in the lobby, the Baroque-Moorish twisted gold columns on either side of the stage and twinkling stars in the pink-hued sky high above the auditorium seats. One of the highlights of the Stanley Theatre is a grand staircase in the main lobby which was based upon one that was on the ocean liners the Titanic and its twin, the Olympic.

The Stanley Theatre was originally owned by the Stanley-Mark Strand Corporation chain, and was affiliated to the Warner Bros. By 1941 it was operated by Warner Bros. Circuit Management Corp. It remained Utica’s grandest and most popular movie house from its opening until the 1950’s, and by the late-1960’s, it was on its last legs. It closed in the early-1970’s.

Then in 1974, the Central New York Community Arts Council purchased the Stanley Theatre. It has since spent over $4.5 million in restoring the grand house to its 1920’s appearance, including seats, carpeting and paint schemes that duplicate the originals, as well as brand new electrical, mechanical, and safety equipment. Restoration is ongoing at the Stanley Theatre.

The Stanley Theatre became known as the Stanley Performing Arts Center, but reverted to its original name in 2005. The theater is home to a handful of organizations, including the Broadway Theatre League (which brings in touring Broadway shows), the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute Great Artists Series which features operatic performances, and the Mohawk Valley Ballet. It is now known as the Stanley Center for the Arts.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 40 comments)

JohnFaust
JohnFaust on September 30, 2008 at 10:40 am

Ziggy

As part of the restoration of the facade and marquee, the original green paint color of the marquee was restored (similar to the color in the postcard at the top of this page).

In doing the work on the marquee— on the front, the WB circle was also found and put back on the front of the marquee .. the Stanley was a Warner Bros. theatre from about 9/14/08 ‘til it became a Stanley Warner Theatre later on.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on September 30, 2008 at 10:53 am

In many of the photos, the marquee does look black. In this photo it appears to be dark green.

JohnFaust
JohnFaust on September 30, 2008 at 10:58 am

That is a VERY RECENT PHOTO. THANK YOU!!!!

Wait ‘til you see the chandelier inside, and the beautiful new stagehouse and loading dock.

Mr G Waterman, from the posts above, come and take a look!
The loading dock is a thing of beauty.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 30, 2008 at 1:27 pm

An elaborate full-color souvenir programme for the grand re-opening last April says: “The Stanley Theatre marquee has been a downtown Utica icon for 80 years. The WB lighted letters on the front of the marquee were covered over with the SW medallion in the late 40’s when Warner Brothers sold the theatre to the new Stanley Warner Corporation. In its life, the marquee was painted over 20 times in many different color combinations, making it difficult to replicate the original colors of green with gold trim until multiple layers of sheet metal were disassembled. Full-color graphic LED reader boards now replace the white side panels with changeable letters that most people are familiar with and remember.”

Michael R. Rambo Jr.
Michael R. Rambo Jr. on September 30, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Warner Brothers theatre division, from 1930 to the late 1940’s-early 1950’s, was Stanley Warner (after buying Philadelphia, PA based Stanley Company of America, started by Stanley Mastbaum and Jules E. Mastbaum). It was through the Paramount Decree that Warner Brothers split into two companies: Warner Brothers Inc. and Stanley Warner Corp.

It was in the 1960’s when Pacific Theatres acquired Stanley Warner Corp, and later RKO Theatres to form the RKO Stanley Warner Theatres division (the other two were Pacific Theatres and Pacific East Theatres). Stanley Warner/RKO Stanley Warner was the biggest theatre chain in Philadelphia, PA, before being surpassed by Budco Theatres Corp. and Sameric Theatres Corp.

There is also a high school in Philadelphia, Pa named after The Stanley Company’s co-founder Jules E. Mastbaum, called Mastbaum Technical High School (built near the site of the former Stanley Warner’s Allegheny Theatre)

In 1981, Pacific Theatres sold RKO Stanley Warner to Almi-Century Theatres, forming RKO Century Warner Theatres.

vincentvendetta
vincentvendetta on September 5, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I have the original opening article and ad for this theatre and it states that there were 3500 seats, unless they padded the facts.
Who knows for sure?

ERD
ERD on January 16, 2011 at 8:28 am

What a beautiful theatre!

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on August 8, 2012 at 10:05 am

Two pages of 1929 photos start here: archive

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