Capitol Theatre

75 Main Street West,
Rochester, NY 14614

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Capitol Theatre

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Opened as the National Theatre around 1902, it became the Shubert Theatre prior to 1913. It went throu several name changes and became Fay’s Vaudeville Theatre by 1918. During the 1940’s, as I remember it, the name on the early-20th Century marquee read “Comerford’s Capitol”. Originally opened at the turn of the 20th Century a vaudeville house known as Fay’s Vaudeville Theatre. I have fond memories of going there often as a child with my parents. Does anyone remember this old theatre or know of any photos of it?

Contributed by Charles

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 17, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Here is a photo from the Rochester Archives. The Capitol is visible on the right side of the photo:
http://tinyurl.com/32fwpc

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on November 17, 2007 at 6:32 pm

The caption for this early twenties photo states that the theater was then Fay’s Vaudeville. Address was 75 Main Street West:
http://tinyurl.com/ytmoz7

NittyRanks
NittyRanks on April 1, 2008 at 7:39 pm

I used to see that theatre when I was on to piano lessons at Hochsien around the corner. I think the auditorium was knocked down and just the front was there in the 1980’s.

martymia2009
martymia2009 on June 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I used to go there on Saturdays since they showed 3 Stooges movies as an add on to the show. When I left there I would go around the corner to Plymouth Ave & the Grand Theatre and see 2 More movies. Admission was 16 cents for kids back then!!!!!

GWTWTOO
GWTWTOO on April 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm

The links don’t seem to work. Could someone please update so the pictures were available again? Thanks.

Moose
Moose on January 2, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Worked at the Capitol from 1964 to 1967, first as an usher then the Manager. Theatre was owned by the Fenyvessy Family who previously had owned about eight theatres in the heydey of movies including the Strand. The theatre was only opened on Saturday and Sunday and was the home of “Action Packed Proven Hits”. From 1965 to 1967 I booked the movies for the Capitol. the top grosser was “King Kong vs Godzilla”. The theatre was the first to show talking pictures. It started out as a vaudville house. The dressing rooms were in dismal shape, not having been used for over forty years.

DavidCoppola
DavidCoppola on January 24, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Moose, I’d like to see some old pix and hear more stories. As a kid, I remeber seeing the outside of the thater and the marquee. I remember when they tore it down. Did it have the stadium seating there? King Kong Escapes as one of the features.

ibelieveicanfly
ibelieveicanfly on December 10, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hey everyone…I am new to “Cinema Treasures” but not unfamiliar with the Capitol Theatre. I have some fond and not so fond memories of the place…I do remember going there in the 60’s without the need for a parental unit…now days you can’t even send your child to the bathroom by themselves…I’ve been trying to locate several movies I saw there, but my title recall skills weren’t honed…I think one of the movies was “The Man in the Iron Mask” released in 1939? I’ve placed an order on Amazon for it, but it’s the other movie I haven’t seen anything remotely like it(remake of course)…for as much of the movie that I remember seeing ,from between my fingers…This man bought and won a lottery of sort, he died and was buried with the ticket in his pocket.His son dug him up and his face was disfigured just like his father’s face…Moose, anyone, that by chance, know the name of this movie plz, plz, plz contact me with that info…Thanks

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

Fay’s Theatre was in operation at least as early as 1918, when the May 4 issue of The Moving Picture World noted that Edward Fay had paid the First National Exchange in New York City $1,000 to secure a one-week run of the feature film My Four Years in Germany at Fay’s Theatre in Rochester.

Fay’s Theatre was mentioned in the June 21, 1924, issue of Exhibitor’s Trade Review, which said that E. M. Fay had begun a remodeling project after the lobby had been slightly damaged by a fire a few weeks earlier.

Edward Fay had a long career in movie exhibition, but most of his operations were in Providence, Rhode Island. The records of the Fay Theatre Company from 1928 to 1971 are held by the Rhode Island Historical Society. An inventory is here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 14, 2014 at 11:53 am

Rochester’s Downtown, by Donovan A. Shilling (Google Books preview) says that this house opened as the National Theatre on May 18, 1903. However, the January 3, 1903, issue of the Lockport Journal mentioned a play that had opened at the National on New Year’s Day. I don’t know if that means the house opened earlier, or if Rochester had an earlier theater of the same name.

The July 15, 1902, issue of The Plumbers' Trade Journal said that the construction contract for the National Theatre called for completion of the structure by October 1. If that goal was met, and assuming at least another month for outfitting and decorating, the National Theatre could have opened as early as November, 1902.

The magazine also noted that the National Theatre had been designed (not surprisingly) by Rochester’s own noted theater architects, Leon H. Lempert & Son.

This circa 1908 photo of Main Street shows that the National Theatre was fronted by a building that, judging from its architectural style, was probably built in the 1850s or 1860s. A new auditorium was most likely built behind the existing commercial building, though it’s also possible that the existing building was gutted and its interior rebuilt as a theater.

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