Santander Performing Arts Center
136 North 6th Street,
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At the turn of the 21st Century, the Rajah Theater was the only downtown movie palace to survive. Its sister palaces, the Astor Theater, Embassy Theater and Loew’s Colonial Theater had all been demolished.
Built in the 1870’s as a market with a Masonic Temple on its upper floors, it became the Academy of Music in 1886. Purchased by the Rajah Shriners in 1917, it was home first to vaudeville, motion pictures and live appearances, then to quality symphonic, opera, ballet, popular music and theatrical performances. Seating was provided for 2,000.
In 2000, the Berks County Convention Center Authority purchased and renovated the aging movie palace. The $7 million facelift established a permanent home for the performing arts in Reading and Berks County. At that time, the Sovereign Bank purchased “naming rights” and the Rajah’s name was changed to the Sovereign Performing Arts Center. It is now the home of the Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Reading Civic Opera Society and a wide variety of other events such as Sesame Street, Peter Pan, The Nutcracker, and many “smooth” jazz concerts. The naming rights have been purchased by the Santander Bank.
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