Capitol Theatre

204 Massachusetts Avenue,
Arlington, MA 02474

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Capitol Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Capitol Theatre opened November 25, 1925, as a neighborhood movie house with 1,600 seats and a stage with dressing rooms for vaudeville. The vertical sign on the front of the building is now gone, but the main marquee remains from its heyday. By the early-1940’s it was operated by Paramount Picture Inc. through their subsidiary Mullins & Pinanski. In 1986 the grand lobby was restored. The lobby’s granite columns and gold leaf – hidden since the 1960’s behind faux wood paneling – are once again on view. The lobby is a popular place for children’s birthday places. Interesting murals decorate the mezzanine lobby. The Capitol Theatre was placed on the National Register in 1985.

In 1989, the Capitol Theatre was multiplexed into five screens, but each auditorium was decorated in the style of the original theater! Auditorium 1 has the original proscenium arch with its large movie screen, beautiful multi-colored plaster designs, organ grilles, surround sound and 315 seats. The organ was removed in the 1960’s.

As of 2007, auditorium 2 has 159 seats and auditoium 3 has 150 seats. Two auditoriums in the former balcony have stadium seating:auditorium 4 with 197 seats and auditorium 5 with 203 seats. Auditorium 6, with 97 seats was added on the site of the old stage in 1990 and is reported to be haunted! Many historic and current photographs, including of the auditoriums, can be viewed on the theatre’s website.

The current theatre operators pride themselves in offering affordable prices for tickets and concessions, lower than the prices in the multiplexes. In 2007, Capitol Theatre ticket prices ranged from $5 to $7. Baby friendly movies are shown (details on the website). ‘Family Friendly’ mainstream first run and arthouse movies are shown. This wonderful gem of a theatre remains a fun place to go in Arlington’s downtown.

Contributed by Cathy Novick, Howard B. Haas

Recent comments (view all 25 comments)

billwhite on April 5, 2005 at 7:40 pm

The Fraimans, operating under the moniker Chatham Light Realty, were my landlords while I operated Somerville Books and Records in Davis Square. They wanted us out of the building, so sent in a demolition crew and started demolishing the building while we were open for business, destroying much of our stock. Later, when they wanted to get Garen Daly out of the Somerville theatre, they padlocked the buiding against him. the landlords were always jealous of the money their leasees were making from their property. They would see a sold out crowd lining up for a concert at feel they were being ripped off since all they got out of it was a rental fee for the use of the building. So they thought they could run these businesses on their own. Fraiman was a miserable and incompetent theatre operator, relying on bookings from a nitwit who took what was given him. At least Mr. Fraiman did not buckle in to the Arlington prudes who threatened him against showing the NC-17 Henry and June, although we had to put up cardboard on the auditorium windows so that children would not peep in. I was fired as manager after Mr. Fraiman found me in the office on the telephone during a rush in the lobby. that I was on the telephone speaking to a delayed employee was of no significance to him. He wanted me gone for reasons of his own, which I never bothered to investigate. As for the ice cream, it was very difficult for employees to keep their spoons out of it, and we all gained weight.

logowatches on August 13, 2006 at 8:45 am

The Capitol Is one of my favorite places to see a movie. They have good clean theatres great popcorn a good concession stand parking is not much of an issue the price is good. A with The Somerville Theatre they do a very good job. I am very happy we have these two theatres.

logowatches on April 22, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Very Nice Photos Great JOB!

nkwoodward on December 12, 2007 at 8:44 pm

I am pleased to have a low price but quality theater in my town. The “original proscenium” screen is very good, the other screens are all OK, but the sixth screen in the “stagehouse” is mediocre: it’s long and narrow, and the screen is quite high off the floor. Very reminiscent of the “stagehouse” screens at the Harvard Square, Church St theater in Cambridge.

HowardBHaas on December 14, 2007 at 9:54 pm

2007 photo of beautiful drinking fountain in the theater-

floridarob on December 3, 2009 at 9:21 am

to Bill White:

I worked for the Fraimans also, Doug, his son was a super nice guy… to show you the greed his father had, he pushed his own son out of the way so he could “develop” the property…and boy was his wife a b*tch

floridarob on December 3, 2009 at 9:26 am

oh, to everyone else, I forgot to mention that I use to work here for the vianos too from 1980

IanJudge on December 22, 2009 at 11:02 pm

We’ve installed Digital 3-D in auditoriums #1 and #4 at the Capitol; 35mm film remains alongside the digital in the main house (#1) but #4 is now 100% digital. While we are very pro-35mm film, installing this equipment was a way to ensure the Capitol gets first run movies in these formats. “Avatar” opened this week in the new Real D process and the presentation was top notch. The second-run market has dried up & this installation will help keep the Capitol open.

-Ian/FEI Theatres

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm

The Theatre Historical Society archive in Illinois has the MGM Theatre Report for the Capitol. Listed at 204 Mass. Avenue. It was in “Good” condition; had been showing MGM product for over 10 years, and had 1107 orchestra seats and 520 balcony seats; total: 1,627. There is an exterior photo taken in April 1941.

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