F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts

71 Public Square,
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

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theatre balcony, from side

Viewing: Photo | Street View

A perfect example of an Art Deco style theatre, it opened as the New Commerford Theatre on August 18, 1938, with a seating capacity of 2,047. Built as the flagship theatre for the Michael Comerford chain.

By 1943, it was operated by Paramount Pictures Inc, through their subsidiary Frank Walker. Later renamed the Paramount Theatre after the 1949 anti-trust suits, it continued showing movies until 1977. Suffered a major flood with 14 feet of water in 1972. Susequent renovations stripped out the ornate lobby and many fixtures were sold.

It closed in the early-1980’s and was facing demolition, when in 1986 S.T.O,P. was able to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was subsequently restored and reopened as the Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.

Contributed by Drew Taylor, David A. Litterer

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

RJS on July 26, 2005 at 10:18 am

Here is a photo of the Paramount theater from early 1970’s before it became the F.M. Kirby center and had the marquee replaced.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 9, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980

Comerford Theater ** (added 1980 – Building – #80003564)
Also known as Paramount Theatre
71 Public Sq., Wilkes-Barre
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: Penn-York Utilities,Inc.
Architectural Style: Art Deco, Moderne, Other
Area of Significance: Architecture
Period of Significance: 1925-1949
Owner: Private , Local Gov’t
Historic Function: Recreation And Culture
Historic Sub-function: Theater
Current Function: Recreation And Culture
Current Sub-function: Music Facility, Theater

atmos on January 22, 2007 at 1:27 am

According to the THSA annual of the Deco theatres John Eberson there is a drawing in the Wilkes-Barre Historical Society Archives for a Paramount Theatre dated 1 May 1931.Eberson designed this building for Comerford.It is quite possible that this theatre is an altered version of his original design.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 4, 2007 at 12:29 pm

This is another photo of the F.M. Kirby Center.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 14, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Here is a larger photo of the F.M. Kirby.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on February 20, 2009 at 10:06 pm

This is a July 1946 ad for the Commerford.

caranfin on November 7, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Thanks for the photos of the Kirby to those who posted them! I stumbled onto this site and started looking at local PA theatres (Pittsburgh), just for a lark. Then i saw this place and remembered that this was where i first met my boyfriend on that wonderful night in October 2004. Thanks for the memory!

Tinseltoes on August 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

Pictured in 1938 on a front cover of the Modern Theatre section: Boxoffice

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