Crown Theater

72 Middlesex Street,
Lowell, MA 01852

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Always a second-run house, the Crown Theater opened in 1916 and closed in 1949, only to re-open as the Allen Theater. However this could have been a short lived venture. It was taken over by an electrical supply firm. The head house and triangular marquee still exist. I believe the auditorium has been torn down.

Contributed by Robert Provencher

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

Rtprovencher on February 20, 2010 at 11:16 am

Kudos to James Roy for the definitive collection of Crown/Allen photos. It represents much appreciated work. I remember the 1950 shot of the Allen (nee Crown), because Middlesex Supply is to right and we knew the family who owned it. It’s easy to see that the old facade of the theater had been stipped off by 1950 (perhaps to “modernize” it?), thus giving us what we see today.
Looking at the aerial shot raises questions for me. It’s hard to believe that the theater (shown in the two interior shots) was actually encompassed in that building. Looking at the back alley shot, the back of the theater building seems to be much lower than the front elevation. Further, the building which looks as if it’s the actual auditorium portion of the theater, is actually the back of the old Middlesex supply and perpendicular the the Crown/Allen building. So, I wonder if the building we’re calling the Crown/Allen is actually the head house for an auditorium in the back half of the old Middlesex Supply. The right hand shot of the two building certainly suggests some difference in construction between the front half and the rear half of the old Middlesex Supply building.
Or, another thought: since the front of the theater is so much higher that the back, maybe the theater was reversed with the stage being at the front?
Another possibility is that, if the theater were encompassed entirely in one building, perhaps the stage house was torn down to a first story level. A close look at the brickwork in the alley photo indicates that may have been the case.
The best way to solve the riddle would be to speak with the building’s owners.

jimroy on February 20, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I went to the UMass Lowell History center today and did somemore checking and unfortunately was unable to find anything that suggests that the photo we have of the Crown was in fact the one thought to be on Middlesex St. in Lowell. The pages I added to the gallerry suggests that the building as is was built in around 1916, and the 4 story building to the left at 60-68 Middlesex St. was built around the same time. The photo of the Crown was from 1929 according to the films advertised on the Marquee and the building to the left of that incorrect for Middlesex St.
The building to the right, which was Middlesex Supply is said to have been built around 1971 which doesn’t make sense according to the 1950 photo of the Allen. It may likley have been renovated by then. See the gallery in the link in my former post. I was able at least to get some info regarding another Lowell Theater anyway, The Strand, which Ron mailed me about and will add that entry in a bit.
Prov., I too wonder about the interior shots and the feasability of it beinjg the Allen. From the aerial view it looks about the right shape for a sloping ceiling and screen at the rear of the building. The additional height in the front would be necessary for the balcony. I was unable to go inside today. Might have to try at lunch during the week sometime.

Rtprovencher on February 23, 2010 at 2:38 pm

More great detective work by Mr. Roy…thanks!
First, Middlesex Supply: it was most assuredly where it is today back in 1951, and well before. By 1971 it did, in fact, undergo a major renovation, which will explain its greeatly altered appearance.
Second, there is no doubt in my mind that the 1929 shot of the Crown is the same building as the 1950 shot of the Allen, and is the same building which remains today. At first I was confused, but, if you strip away the facade of the 1929 Crown, what is left is the 1950 facade of the Allen, and that which remains today.
Third, I remain confused about how the Crown fit into the building which is there today. Did it fit entirely into that building (after all, it had only 800 seats), or was there another building involved (such as the rear of Middlesex Supply)? I wonder if the Lowell Historical Society could shed any light? I wonder if, at least, they might refer us to an old-timer who actually attended the Crown (I’m an old-timer who attended just about every other Lowell theater except the Crown/Allen!).

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 25, 2010 at 8:36 am

tto Prov. and Jim Roy- what casts doubt in my mind that the 1929 Crown is the Crown/Allen in Lowell is the height of both the theater and the building to its left. They are both one story shorter than what’s there now. There was a very fancy building to the right, where Middlesex Supply is now. Looks like it could have been a bank building, for example. We know that it’s a NETOCO theater because the sign above the marquee says so. The Crown photos were with some old NETOCO company photos of Boston neighborhood theaters, with no info about where it was located. Someone I know says that there was no Crown Theatre in Boston and the only Crown was in Lowell.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

Boxoffice Magazine for April 28, 1958 has a feature article about Ben Sack and the Sack theater chain of Boston. Sack says that he got his start in movie theaters in Lowell. In 1950, with partners Irving Sisson and Joe Cohen, he began operating the Allen Theatre. A year later, the 3 moved to Fitchburg and after getting established there, they closed the Allen in Lowell, which Sack called a “dog”.

jimroy on September 8, 2010 at 5:50 am

I was going by the place last night and noticed it all lit up. The Electrical Distrubutor place is now gone and the building is now operated as a gym to teach Karate, Mixed Martial Arts, Self Defence and Kun Khmer (Cambodian) Kick Boxing. I walked through it a little and they have a full size boxing ring in the area where the fron to the stage would be. After the theater moved out years ago they built a floor/cieling from the balcony to the rear wall. I was told there are still remnants of the balcony upstairs and was invited to tour the place some time during the day if I go back. Maybe this weekend.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 9, 2010 at 10:42 am

The Crown in Lowell is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 900 seats and open 7 days per week.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on March 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Further to the discussion of other theates named “Crown”, -in a list of theaters and halls receiving state licenses in MA as of Oct. 31, 1914, are Crown theaters in Amesbury and Everett.

rabourassa on May 2, 2012 at 2:55 pm

This is the Crown Building I know I own it. I was my place of business till 2010 when I retired.

Roger Katz
Roger Katz on November 11, 2012 at 6:00 am

For sale on Loopnet

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