Stanley Center for the Arts
259 Genesee Street,
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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. 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. 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.
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