Salem Theater

295 Essex Street,
Salem, MA 01970

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E. M. Loew’s Salem Theater opened in 1953. It’s interior was modern. The walls were wallpapered, the ceiling was plain tile, and the aisles had carpet runners. All seating was orchestra, and because the theater was one story, there was no balcony or even a mezzanine in the rear. The seats moved forward slightly so that the person could recline a bit. That was innovative for its time. Otherwise, the theater was quite nondescript. It was closed in 1985.

It burned in the late-1990’s or early-2000’s and was razed.

Contributed by David April

Recent comments (view all 23 comments)

JonMontgomery
JonMontgomery on January 7, 2010 at 8:36 pm

As far as I know, after the Plaza Theater was demolished it was left as just a parking lot. The site that the Salem Theater and Mary’s Lunch once occupied is now a condo complex called “289 Essex St”. Flint St. is no where near this area, it is a street connecting Mason St. in north Salem to Dalton Parkway.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Elias M. Loew 1898-1984, not related to Marcus Loew of Loews Theatres,based his company out of Boston,Mass.

DApril
DApril on July 22, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Hi tlsloews,

Thanks for that bit of history on Elias M. Loew. I had sometimes wondered if there was a connection to Marcus Loew, but it turns out only in the similarity of the name.

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on July 22, 2010 at 4:38 pm

THANKS DAVE1.At one time he owned 70 hardtop theatres 17 drive-ins,some hotels and motels.Check out the Gulfstream Drive-in he owned that and it had a 52 unit motel built on both sides of the drive-in screen,it is listed on Cinema,Treasures,he also owned a racetrack.E.M. Loews theatres are listed under the Loews chain link but were really another company.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 10, 2010 at 4:13 am

Does anyone know if E.M. Loew’s Salem Theatre was built on the site of an earlier house also called the Salem Theatre? There was a Salem Theatre in operation at least as early as the 1910s. During the silent era it was operated by the Koen Brothers, pioneer movie exhibitors in Salem and other towns in the area.

There’s a brief biography of the Koen Brothers in this 1922 book. It mentions several of their theaters.

DApril
DApril on December 10, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Hi Joe,

I can’t answer your exact question. But during the silent picture era, I know from my parents that there were The Comique, Nickelodian, and Federal Theaters downtown. The first two were quite small and disappeared a very long time ago. The Federal was still standing for years, but the theater itself was closed. I believe the first floor was then occupied by a First National grocery store with a candlepin bowling alley on the lower level. When you viewed the Federal’s exterior, it was unmistakenly a theater, with the high stage structure for “flying” screens, curtains and scenery for plays and vaudville shows. During Salem’s urban renewal frenzy in the 1960s, they put the wrecking ball to the Federal shortly before the Paramount was leveled. I am quite sure that where the Plaza Theater (an E. M. Loew theater) stood, there was an earlier Plaza Theater there destroyed by fire. So the one that most of us remember was actually the “New Plaza”. I believe the word “New” actually appeared in small stylized letters before the name on the marquee. I can tell you for sure that E. M. Loew’s Salem was not sited where the Empire Theatre had stood, as I clearly recall the Paramount, Plaza, E.M. Loew’s Salem and the closed Empire all coexisting during the 1950s.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Dave, the biography of the Koen brothers I linked to in my previous comment mentions the Comique and the Federal, and even gives the Federal’s opening date, March 23, 1913. John Koen’s first theater was a 144-seat storefront operation called the Cozy.

There’s a picture of the old Salem Theatre in this book, and the caption says the view is along Essex Street from Barton Square toward Washington Street. The Salem Theatre was on the right corner in the foreground, so it was about a block and a half east of the site of E.M. Loew’s later Salem. It opened in 1901, as one of Julius Cahn’s operations, and closed in the 1930s.

DApril
DApril on December 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Hi Joe,

That’s great information. The Federal Theater was always a mystery to my generation—it was there but yet it was not. I imagine that the businesses occupying space there were likely tenants who would not have had access to the theater. It would be great to know what the interior looked like. Being closed for so long though, if there were roof leaks, it was probably quite deteriorated by then.

I checked out the picture of the older Salem Theatre. Interesting! All those pictures were fun to look at. On page 34
there’s a picture of the YMCA. The rooftop loggia they mention we called “The Colleseum”. Years later it was removed. On the second floor of that building is Ames Memorial Hall which is being fully restored to its earlier splendor. They’ve done something right!

camera65
camera65 on June 18, 2011 at 8:07 am

Just reading the Salem Theatre info. I don’t recall that this burned. In its last few years, it was bought and operated independently with films and concerts by, I think, John Finsbury. Eventually he couldn’t keep it viable and took it down for the condo development that stands there today. I attended this house as a kid in the fifties. Then, the ads called it the “New Salem Theatre”, to separate it from the old, defunct house of that name, which I think was between the Plaza and Town House Square on the same side. I was a projectionist there in the 70s when Loew had it. The original booth operators were Percy Judge, Harlan Cole, Walter Caron and one other I can’t recall.

DApril
DApril on June 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Hi camera65

I know the (new) Salem Theater was demolished around 1985. It seemed to me that I had seen a newspaper article, probably from the Salem Evening News, that noted that before demolition there had been a fire there. I wish I could locate that reference again, but cannot. If you’re sure there was no fire, then I’d defer to you on that.

David

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