Strand Theatre

267 Maple Street,
Holyoke, MA 01040

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Strand Theater

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The Strand Theatre was one of three first-run downtown Holyoke movie houses. It opened in 1915 and was in continuous operation until the late-1970’s. The Strand Theatre was unique among Holyoke’s movie houses in that it had no balcony.

It closed in 1978 and was demolished in the early-1980’s.

Contributed by Dr. Russ Durocher

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

William
William on November 20, 2003 at 11:55 pm

The Strand Theatre was listed as to having seated 1109 people as of 1955.

furi0usbee
furi0usbee on December 7, 2004 at 12:14 pm

I live in Holyoke, and was just a kid when the Strand was demolished. I remember however going in the building one last time. There were still seats, lights, etc. left in the building. We took a chair. That chair ended up in Bray Lake at the Mt. Tom Reservation during a fishing/cook-out. That chair is probably still in the lake!!!

Bryan

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 23, 2006 at 3:58 pm

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Strand on Maple St. in Holyoke has a facade photo taken in May 1941. The theatre had an impressive facade with a long rain canopy over the sidewalk above which was a flat triangle marquee with 3 lines of black letters on a white background. At the top was “Strand” in big letters. Attractions were “Roundup” and “Little Men”. The Report states that the Strand has been a MGM customer for over 10 years; that it’s over 15 years old; that it is in Fair condition; and has 1129 seats, all on one floor. Competing theatres are listed as the Victory, Majestic and Suffolk. The 1940 population of Holyoke was 53,750.

unknown
unknown on March 6, 2007 at 8:50 pm

The Strand Theatre was, for decades, one of Holyoke’s most popular first-run theatres. It was built and owned (and operated during most of its life) by The Goldstein Brothers Circuit, which later became Western Massachusetts Inc.. WMT,Inc. was for many years the regional affiliate of United Paramount Theatres, Inc.

The Holyoke Daily Transcript for Friday, April 9, 1920 is the earliest advertising record I can locate for the Strand Theatre. A rather large two-column display ad for that date shows the Strand offering “The Sagebrusher” with “an All-Star Cast Including Roy Stewart and Marguerite De La Mott.” The “Big Extra Feature” is “Mack Sennett”s ‘Smashing Comedy’ ‘Yankee Doodle in Berlin’ with all the Mack Sennett Comedians and Diving Beauties. Come On Kids to the Special Children’s Show Tomorrow Morning at 10 o’clock — Admission 6 cents!” (“Tomorrow” was a Saturday.)

Holyoke Daily Transcript Amusement Listings for February 16, 1915 do not show the Strand, so chances are it was built sometime during the World War I years, or shortly thereafter. I believe I was told many years ago that it opened in 1920, so apparently the Strand was brand-new at the time of the ad referenced above.. Other theatres advertised in the April 9, 1920 edition of “The Transcript” include the Holyoke Theatre (on Dwight Street, below High Street, originally The Holyoke Opera House — listed on this site as E.M.Loew’s State Theatre), The Suffolk, The Bijou, The Globe, The Majestic and The Court Square Theatre in nearby Springfield. (All of the foregoing are also listed on this site).

The Strand continued with first-run silent pictures throughout the 1920s and subsequent ads make reference to “The Strand Symphony Orchestra” which was in residence to provide dramatic musical scores to accompany the action on the screen. An ad which appeared in 1925 states “ Presented with the same elaborate music score that was used at the ‘Geo. M. Cohan Theatre’ in New York City.” The silent feature receiving this “direct from Broadway” presentation was Lillian Gish in “Romola.”

After the arrival of sound, the Strand continued into the 1930s and 1940s as one of three first-run Holyoke Theatres. Goldstein’s WMT, Inc. controlled two of the three during these decades (the other was the Victory, also listed on this site). WMT also had the second-run Bijou, located “down the hill” on Main Street, near the Boston & Maine Railroad tracks. During the Depression Era and the World War II years, the first-run product of most of the major studios (Paramount, MGM, 20th/Fox, Warners and RKO) was shared by the Strand and Victory. Other studios (Columbia, Universal, United Artists) played first-run at the non-Goldstein Suffolk Theatre.

In 1952, WMT, Inc. leased out several of its theatres for ten years to New England Theatres, Inc. (which also had been connected to United Paramount Theatres during the heyday of the studio-controlled system). Other WMT houses involved were the Capitol, Pittsfield (listed on this site) and the Paramount, Springfield (listed on this site as “The Hippodrome.”)

Under the control of NET, Inc. during most of the 1950s, the Strand continued as a premiere Holyoke showcase. Apparently a “product split” was arranged between WMT, Inc.’s Victory and the Strand, because the same sharing of first-run product between the two theatres mentioned earlier continued, even though the two houses were now operated by “competing”circuits.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, all three first-run Holyoke theatres (Victory, Strand and Suffolk) opened daily at 1:00 P.M.and ran continuously all afternoon and evening until 11:00 P.M. One could buy a ticket and walk into the theatres at anytime during this “non-stop” policy. It was possible to go to the movies at 1:00 P.M. and remain in the theatres until 11:00 P.M., seeing the two features, cartoon, short subject and newsreel over and over (during the World War II years, the theatres often started the first complete show as early as 9:00 A.M., to accommodate the major increase of workers in Holyoke’s factories, which were operating on three 8-hour working shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week during wartime.) There were afternoon prices (and morning prices as well, during the 40s), which increased to evening prices after 5:00 P.M. For certain really major attractions, evening prices often prevailed from opening throughout the day and evening on Sundays and holidays (these were always peak movie-going days in Holyoke). Often, people would try to make it to the box office shortly before 5:00 P.M. in order to pay the cheaper afternoon admission and then see what was popularly termed “the supper show” for a bargain. Of course, one had to actually enter the theatre and surrender the ticket prior to 5:00 P.M. as well, or the afternoon admission would not be valid.

In 1962, the Strand Theatre reverted to the control of WMT, Inc., which continued to operate it as a first-run venue until 1969. However, by the late 1960s, due to the erosion created by television over the years and the opening of Redstone Showcase Cinemas in nearby West Springfield, the daily continuous shows had vanished. The Victory and Strand had gone to a policy of matinees on Wednesdays at 1:30 P.M., with shows nightly at 7:00 P.M. On Saturday, Sunday and holidays, both theatres still operated continuously from 1:30 P.M. to 10:30 or 11:00 P.M. The Herman Rifkin owned Suffolk Theatre (by the 1960s being leased by WMT, Inc and no longer first-run.) went to a drastically reduced operational policy of Friday, Saturday and Sunday only (closed Monday through Thursday) with Friday shows starting at 6:00 P.M. (which allowed two showings of the feature and one showing of the co-feature) and continuous shows Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 P.M.

In December 1969, WMT, Inc. leased the Strand to Irwin Cohen of C. & F. Theatres, Inc. (who was also leasing the Bijou Theatre in Springfield from B. & Q. Associates) The Christmas 1969 booking was the X-Rated “Midnight Cowboy.” The only reason Cohen played this picture at the Strand was due to its X-Rating. “Cowboy” was followed by a policy of soft-core porn double features which continued until March 1971. In November 1970, the City of Holyoke issued a restraining order against the Strand for presenting “obscene entertainment” and the theatre was closed until after Christmas. Apparently local religious leaders put pressure on the city government to insure that this kind of entertainment was not being offered to the members of their congregations during the Christmas Season.

Irwin Cohen dropped the lease on the Strand at the end of February 1971 and it again reverted to WMT’s control. A mixed policy of first-run and sub-run was offered 7 days-a-week, operating weekday evenings, Friday matinees and continuous all day Saturday and Sunday. The “first-run” product was increasingly double features from American International Pictures, i.e. cheap horror and science fiction or motorcycle gang movies — what was known as “drive-in theatre fare.” “Count Yorga, the Vampire,” “The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant,” “Blackula” and “Dracula A.D. 1970” with Christopher Lee (actually a fairly well -done British entry from the then-popular Hammer Studios).

In early 1973, shortly before his physical demise, Samuel Goldstein leased the entire WMT, Inc. circuit to Nelson Wright (a former WMT theatre manager from Pittsfield MA, at this time a Boston-based film buyer/booker) who operated the chain under the banner of “Western Massachusetts Theatre Associates.”

In November 1976, Nelson Wright was suddenly stricken by a heart attack and died in the lobby of a Pittsfield MA hotel while there to visit the theatres he had leased from Goldstein in that town (The Palace, Capitol and Showplace). His son, Peter Wright (was still a film buyer/booker in Boston in the late 1980s) took over the operation of the circuit. He was forced (for financial reasons) to surrender the theatres and return them to WMT, Inc. As of March 1977, the WMT circuit was in the hands of the infamous Ronald Goldstein, son of Samuel and heir to the Goldstein “fortune.” This Mr. Goldstein proceeded to run his father’s (and uncle Nathan’s) circuit into the ground in a very few years, so that by the mid 80s, many of them had leaking roofs, sagging marquees, rotting stages, and inoperative heating and air conditioning plants. Back property taxes were owed to many of the towns where the theatres were located. Goldstein was increasingly cited for building code violations in numerous situations, was resulted in theatres being closed (rather than spend money to make the needed repairs to fulfill the safety codes).

Holyoke’s Strand Theatre was a somewhat early casualty of Ronald Goldstein’s rampant neglect Cited for numerous code violations in 1978 and 1979, the City of Holyoke ordered it condemned as a safety hazard and forced it to close forever. A few years later the city took possession of the building (which had retail and apartment space adjacent to the theatre itself) for unpaid property taxes and ordered it razed. I don’t recall whether the apartment building went down with the theatre, as I had left the Holyoke area by 1981.

The Strand had always been a well-run and well-maintained theatre until it hit the negative spiral of porn, followed by the death-blow delivered to it by Ronald Goldstein. Western Massachusetts Theatres, Inc. ultimately well-earned reputation for neglect of their theatres was really set in motion and perpetrated by Ronald Goldstein in the late 7os and early 80s. In the years previous, under the guidance of Sam and Nate Goldstein, the circuit had a far better reputation.

unknown
unknown on March 7, 2007 at 8:46 pm

Although a very popular theatre in its day, the Strand was not particularly elaborate. It had a wide entry with an exterior box office in the center. There were banks of glass-paned doors on either side of the box office flanked by poster display cases. The box office was not free-standing. It was set into the frame-work of the bank of entry doors, so that the glassed-in ticket window faced the street and the back of the box office opened directly into the lobby. The lobby just beyond the entry doors was extremely long, but very narrow, and ran the full width of the building, extending across the entire back wall of the auditorium just beyond it. This lobby was essentially a narrow hallway with a terrazzo floor. The name “Strand” was spelled out in small black tiles set into the terrazzo in the center of the lobby floor. There was a large, ornate, cast-iron “ticket chopper” positioned at the entry door to the immediate right of the back of the box office. Set into the back lobby wall were four double doors, painted black with chrome handles, which opened directly into each of the four aisles of the single-floor auditorium. Above each of the doors were panes of amber-colored leaded glass with an oval pattern set into the center. These panes were translucent and admitted a small amount of diffused light from the lobby into the rear of the auditorium. Above each door was a small sign indicating the aisle number of that particular door — “Aisle 1” “Aisle 2”, etc. There was a stairway from the lobby opposite the doorway to “Aisle Four” which led upstairs to the men’s room, manager’s office and projection booth, all located on the second floor above the narrow lobby. At the other end of the lobby, opposite the doorway to “Aisle One,” was a stairway which gave access to the second floor ladies room. Nothing was especially elaborate or ornate about the theatre’s appointments. The whole atmosphere was one of a “no frills orderliness and efficiency.”

The Strand had (as indicated above) four aisles which divided the auditorium into three seating sections — center, left and right. The Strand’s auditiorium was long, rather than wide. The raked floor of this simple rectangular room was of wood and somewhat steeply pitched. The wooden floor of the theatre often creaked loudly during the theatre’s later years, adding to the atmosphere of increasing decrepitude which was rapidly overtaking the theatre at the end of its life. The set-up of the auditorium was simple — a long, rectangle with the proscenium/stage/screen at one end, flanked on either side by red velvet draped portals which led to fire exits which opened onto an alleyway behind the theatre.

The Strand’s auditorium seemed cavernous, due to the absence of a balcony, and had a high, vaulted ceiling. It was not plain and unadorned, however. The color scheme was dark with rose-colored accents and gold-leaf trimmed capitals topping columns partially inset into the walls in various places throughout. The proscenium arch carried gold and silver trim, an accent drapery treatment, and a large plaster medalion set at the apex of the arch which displayed the initial “S” also accented in gold and silver leaf. The stage opening was relatively narrow and the stage itself not very deep. There were dressing rooms in the basement beneath the stage. There was an orchestra pit in front of the stage. For decades a lonely concert grand piano sat in the pit, drawing to mind the era of silent movies when the Strand had its own symphony orchestra. There was a massive, asbestos, house curtain which was hand-painted with various decorative themes and was raised and lowered vertically. There was also a gold “traveler” which opened horizontally.

In spite of the narrow stage opening, the Cinemascope screen installed in the 1950s was placed within the existing proscenium, providing a scope image that was the identical width of the regular “flat” picture. While the “flat” picture filled the entire screen, wide-screen features displayed an image that was flanked, top and bottom, with areas of empty screen surface, giving an effect identical with today’s experience of seeing a film “letterboxed” for video. To my knowledge, the Strand never employed movable top and bottom masking to properly frame the anamorphic image. The result was that every film in “scope” looked like the image was simply “floating” in the middle area of the screen. In spite of the four-track magnetic stereo sound system that was installed with the Cinemascope screen, the Strand was hardly the ideal place to experience the intended impact of the “scope” process. Ironically, many of the wide-screen epics of the 50s and early to mid 60s played there — “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956), “Ben Hur” (1959) and “Cleopatra” (1963), to name just a few. These, among others, would have been far more effective at the nearby Victory (just around the corner and a block up the hill on Suffolk Street) The Victory, due to a much wider proscenium, had a “panoramic” screen and the anamorphic image there gave the intended expansive effect. Neither the Strand or the Victory’s screens, however, were curved, so that part of the original Fox scope process was not present. The only Holyoke theatre to be equipped with a properly curved “scope” screen was the Suffolk. At the time of the installation of “scope” the Strand was also completely reseated, which would account for its seating capacity being reduced to slightly under 1000 during its final decades.

During the heyday of the downtown Holyoke theatres (40s, 50s and early 60s) — on Saturdays, Sundays and rainy weekdays — the line waiting to get into the Strand often extended north on Maple Street, from the Strand’s entry to the corner of Suffolk Street, and then around the corner and up the hill on Suffolk Street past the Victory Theatre (across the street at Suffolk and Chestnut) and again around the corner south down along Chestnut. Essentially encircling the Strand for two thirds of a square block. The Victory’s cashier could watch the line for the Strand, waiting on the sidewalk across the street, gradually inching its way, a few people at a time, forward down the hill and around the corner to the Strand’s box office. Of course the Victory’s cashier probably didn’t have much time to watch the Strand’s line, she was usually too busy dealing with another equally impressive line of patrons stretching north along Chestnut Street and then east down Dwight Street at the next intersection waiting to enter the Victory itself. Often there was another line of substantial length snaking east on lower Suffolk Street and stretching north on Division Street awaiting entry to the Suffolk Theatre as well. One could stand on the corner of Maple and Suffolk Streets shortly after 1:00 P.M. during these busy days for the three Holyoke first-run houses and hear the cheer from the crowd in Strand’s line that went up as the cashier opened the box office window and began selling tickets, which was echoed a few minutes later by another cheer from the Victory’s line as the box office at that theatre opened. Another howl was usually heard moments later, when the line waiting at the Suffolk also slowly started to move ahead. Later, around 4:30 or 5:00 P.M., it was utter pandemonium as the three theatres exited 3000 or more people (between them) onto the city sidewalks. Off-duty Holyoke police officers were employed jointly by the three theatres to manage the crowds during the entire afternoon while they were in the theatres, and to direct auto and pedestrian traffic while the theatres were exiting the matinee patrons later in the day.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm

The Strand is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1175 seats and open daily.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

The February 26, 1916, issue of The Moving Picture World ran an item saying that two new theaters had recently opened in Holyoke. The larger of them, with 900 seats, was the Strand, operated by Alexander Cameron. The Strand was showing Paramount and General Film releases.

The Strand is listed under Public Halls rather than Theatres in the District Police Report for the year ending October 31, 1916.

This weblog post has a 1922 photo of Maple Street with the Strand Theatre at far right.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm

A 1982 Reconnaissance Survey Town Report from the Massachusetts Historical Commission gives the construction year of the Strand Theatre at Holyoke as 1915, and gives the name of the architect as G.P.B. Alderman (George Perkins Bissell Alderman.)

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