Colonial Theatre

12 Hampshire Street,
Lawrence, MA 01840

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The Colonial Theatre at 12 Hampshire Street was built in 1904. According to the book, "Lawrence, Massachusetts: Images of America" by Ertha Dengler, it was built by the Sweeney Brothers of Lawrence "as a showcase for the best in professional talent. Situated on the northwest corner of Hampshire and Methuen Streets, its five stories contained stores in the front portion of the first floor and a rooming house above. The immense stage section occupied the rear. Chaplin once played here in person, as did Lillian Russell and a legion of comedians, magicians, singers, dancers, orchestras, and stock companies from around the world."

According to "Americanizing the movies and ‘movie-mad’ audiences, 1910-1914" by Richard Abel, at least as early as February of 1913 it began showing feature films when the Lawrence Eagle promoted the weeklong run of "Paul Rainey’s African Hunt" at the Colonial Theatre, billed as this "Darkest African Motion Picture" with a full page of pictures and text.

In 1914 the "Report of the Chief of the Massachusetts District Police" listed the Colonial Theatre licensed to the Colonial Theater Company but by 1920 it was run by Toomey and Demara of the Empire Theatre. By 1927, the only theater listed in the City’s business directory under the category or "Theatre" and not "Motion Picture Theater" was the Empire Theatre and the same year listed the Empire Amusement Company also at 12 Hampshire Street, the same address as the Colonial Theatre.

The Colonial Theatre operated until 1933 and the building some years after that. By the late-1960’s and early-1970’s the location was occupied by a single storied structure that housed the infamous "Chez When" strip club.

Contributed by James V. Roy

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 10, 2010 at 10:03 am

The Colonial Th. in Lawrence is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1600 seats, open daily.

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