Zeiterion Theatre

684 Purchase Street,
New Bedford, MA 02741

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fander129 on December 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm

to kk1211kasey – Kopel Zeitz is also my great grandfather !! His son Harry was my grandfather. Harry’s daughter Elaine was my mother. My name is Fred Anderson. please email me at and let’s connect. We must be first cousins. (PS, Barney Zeitz from Martha’s Vineyard is also my first cousin. His father Carl was Elaine’s brother and Harry’s son.) I would love to talk to you and your grand mother

barneyzeitz on January 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I am named after Barney Zeitz and live on Martha’s Vineyard, grew up in Fall River. Barney Zeitz died in 1946 and I was born in 1951. If anyone knows what happened to Barney I would appreciate knowing. I am an artist and would like to build an artistic marquee for the front of the building.

GeorgeStrum on July 7, 2011 at 7:51 am

Having visited this theatre with EMCATOS on 7/02/11 I did find evidence of “orbs” in some of my pictures an indication of some ghostly presence. The Wurlitzer organ sounded manificent.

kk1211kasey on February 27, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I am actually related to the Zeitz’s. Kopel Zeitz is my great grandfather. If there is anything anyone wants to know my grand mother might be able to help you out.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

As the State, this theater is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1710 seats and open daily. The seat count is too high.

northernmusic on March 25, 2010 at 3:59 pm

According to the Zeiterion Theatre’s manager who I communicated with today (03-25-10) they have 1175 seats.

zelda08 on July 13, 2008 at 4:33 am

No, I was not able to attend that particular event. The edifice is gorgeous, and I have faith that the city of NB will prioritize the Orpheum’s restoration. Thanks for the website link, btw.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2008 at 3:33 am

I know it is beautiful and I have visited it (from Providence) numerous times. Even more beautiful is the long-closed Orpheum Theatre. It was opened to the public for a rope-light tour last October. I went. Did you? A magnificent place that needs a lot of work. I hope they eventually get it restored and put back into used.

zelda08 on July 13, 2008 at 3:22 am

I am in the theater field and was discussing this with one of my colleagues. We also viewed the information on “haunted theaters.” I would like to research this topic a bit more over time. I live very close to the Zeiterion Theatre. It is quite beautiful!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 13, 2008 at 2:57 am

I do not have any information about that. That would certainly be an interesting, though very sad, story

zelda08 on July 13, 2008 at 12:45 am

Hello Gerald,
Is Barney Zeitz the gentleman who had commmitted suicide in the projection booth of the Zeiterion Theatre?

Thank you,

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2007 at 7:28 am

History of the Zeiterion Theatre.

From the 1990s booklet The Center – Downtown New Bedford in the 1950s by Carmen Maiocco:

“The State Theater showed movies in the Center for almost 60 years, and then, in the earky 1980s, came within a whisker of being reduced to a parking lot. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back in the early 1920s, a young fellow named Barney Zeitz and his family decided to build a grand entertainment palace on Purchase Street to attract the brightest stars of vaudeville to downtown New Bedford. Construction commenced in 1922, and in April, 1923, the Zeiterion Theater opened with a comedy review entitled The Troubles of 1922, starring George Jessel. The uncommon elegance and beauty knocked New Bedford on its ear, with its Italian marble lobby, its sparkling crystal chandelier, and its golden Grecian dancers cavorting arond the walls high above the audience. Every seat, over a thousand of them, was filled on opening night. The theater was packed again shortly thereafter, when the film star Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natasha, came to town to dance the tango. The women of New Bedford came in droves, ignoring warnings from their priests and pastors to avoid such sinful spectacle. Vaudeville gave way to silent pictures, which in turn ushered in talkies. The Zeiterion was quickly renamed the State Theater.

“The Zeitz family was a major player in the New Bedford entertainment scene for over half a century. The family name can be traced to Kopel and Fannie Zeitz, two natives of nineteenth century Russia. The Zeitzes immigrated to the United States sometime around the turn of the century, and raised a large famil, including five sons: Barney (the oldest), Harry, Fisher, Jacob, and Morton. By 1918, Barney Zeitz had a hardware store at the foot of Union Street and a wrecking company on Acushnet Avenue. In 1922, Barney established the Zeitz Realty Company, and set into motion the construction of the Zeiterion Theater. In everything he did, Barney Zeitz worked closely with his brothers. At one time or another the Zeitzes operated, in New Bedford, the State, the Empire, the New Bedford, the Olympia, and the Capitol Theaters, as well as others in Fall River (the Academy), Newport [the Paramount] and Maine. The Zeitzes introduced the people of New Bedford to talking movies n 1927. Zeitz Theaters hosted world premieres of the silent film classic Down to the Sea in Ships (1924), the talking version of a movie of the same name Down to the Sea in Ships (1949) starring Lionel Barrymore and Richard Widmark, and the most famous ofg them all Moby Dick (1956) starring Gregory Peck. In the 1940s and 1950s, some people remember a dance hall above the theater. By 1980, the State Theater was owned by the Penlar brothers, James, Robert, and John, who operated Paragon Travel. The Penlars planned to demolish the theater to make room for a parking lot behind the travel agency. The local preservation society, the Waterfront Historic Area League, WHALE, got wind of the possible demolition and began to negotiate with the Penlars to rescue the theater. The last movie to be shown at the State was a forgettable offering entitled The Watcher in the Woods, on Wednesday evening, October 14, 1981. For the next few weeks the fate of the old theater teetered on a razor’s edge. People like John Bullard, the Agent for WHALE, and Tony Souza of the New Bedford Office for Historic Preservation, and Sarah Delano, the president of WHALE, all worked tirelessly and heroically to prevent the bulldozers from rolling. And it worked. In November, 1981, the Penlar brothers, in an act of generosity and public-spiritedness that ought never to be forgotten, donated the theater to WHALE. The State Theater was saved.

“Not all preservation stories have such happy endings. In neighboring Fall River, the glorious Durfee Theater on North Main Street tragically fell, because there was no Sarah Delano to step in front of the wrecker’s ball, no Penlar brothers to put community before personal gain. A massive renovation of the State Theater was initiated almost at once. Well over a million dollars was pumped into the restoration, much of it from the state; some of it raised by WHALE from local donations. In September, 1982, the new Zeiterion had its grand reopening. Actress Shirley Jones, of movie (Elmer Gantry, Oklahoma) and television (The Partridge Family) fame, performed a musical review that brought the 1,300 patrons to their feet by the end of the evining. The ‘Z’, the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, has been playing to large, enthusiastic crowds ever since.”

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 10, 2006 at 7:34 am

The MGM Theatre Reports from 1941 are full of errors – the Zeiterion could not possibly have had 1708 seats. It appears that possibly someone turned a “2” into a “7”.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 31, 2005 at 7:39 am

The MGM Theatre Photograph & Report form for the Zeiterion has a photo taken in May 1941. The long marquee has an arch in the middle with “State Theatre” in script letters. There are 3 lines with white letters on black background. The attraction is “Great American Broadcast.” The REport states that the State has been exhibiting MGM product for 4 years; that it’s in Good condition and that it has 1708 seats, all on the main floor. MGM made reports for 11 theatres in New Bedford in 1941. The others are: Casino, Empire, Orpheum, Rialto, Baylies Square, Capitol, New Bedford Theatre; Olympia, Royal, and Strand. The architects for the State/Zeiterion were Leary and Walker. It opened on April 2, 1923 with a stage show, “Troubles of 1923” starring George Jessel. It was built by the Zeitz brothers, hence the original name, Zeiterion. The name was changed to State Theatre several months after opening.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 21, 2005 at 9:56 am

The seating capacity, according to the theatre’s own website, is 1226. The theatre has one level only. There is no balcony.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 9, 2005 at 12:41 pm

The State Theatre opened in 1923. It had a small Wurlitzer 2Manual theatre pipe organ which was shipped from the Wurlitzer factory on 28th September 1923.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 10, 2005 at 2:39 pm

It should be listed as “Zeiterion Theatre.” “The” is not part of its name.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 4, 2005 at 12:55 pm

A photo of the exterior of the Zeiterion:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 26, 2004 at 12:20 pm

A truly lovely theatre in New Bedford and the last surviving of its downtown theatres. It does not have a balcony. This is the theatre where, appropriately enough, John Huston’s whale of a movie MOBY DICK, with Gregory Peck, had its world premiere in 1956.