Capitol Theatre

1362 Main Street,
Springfield, MA 01103

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Capitol Theatre

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Originally opened as the Gilmore Opera House in 1857. The Capitol Theatre was opened April 18, 1920. It was Springfield’s premiere first run showcase for Warner Bros. and films featuring such stars as Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and Bette Davis.

The Capitol Theatre fell victim to Springfield’s 1960’s-era urban renewal and closed in 1968. It was demolished in 1972.

Contributed by Dr. Russ Durocher

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

EdwardShear on December 4, 2004 at 8:31 am

The Capitol was originally built as the Gilmore Opera House in 1857!
It burnt down in 1864, remodelled and reopened in 1865. In April, 1920, it became the Capitol Theater. It had a balcony with a total of 1,450 seats. A prosenium arch curved around the stage/screen and to the right of it, in a wall niche, was a 2,500pipe Austin organ that was played during it’s silent movie days.
The exterior front had a long marquee with narrow title space on the front. Two verticle signs spelling Capitol hung on the building above either side of the marquee. Above the marquee were large windows with a marble arch crowned at the top by the face of a muse
wearing a helmet. This was a very impressive sight staring down on
Main St. directly across the street from Johnson’s Bookstore.
A ticket booth stood outside in front of it’s doors. The lobby was
marble with side doors on the Pynchon St. side. The Capitol closed
on Feb. 29, 1968. It’s final film was “Bonnie and Clyde”.
In November, 1972, it was demolished and downtown Springfield lost an important part of it’s history.

AlLarkin on June 5, 2005 at 2:10 am

This narrow theater could only fit a vertical curtain instead of the standard track type when the large screen was installed, covering the stage area. While the other 2 major theaters had approximately 58 seats across with 5 isles, this had 28 with 2 isles. Only the Bijou was slightly narrower.

RickHall on August 1, 2005 at 9:04 am

I was the promoter who last had possession of the Capitol. Besides the bands mentioned, we also had such names as Alice Cooper, Rod Stewart, Eric Burdon and War, J. Giels Band, and many others.

While out of use, the old “air-conditioning” was still in place in the 60s. This consisted of holes beneath each seat which led up from large ice rooms in the basement. Huge squirrel cage fans blew air over the ice and up into the theatre.

Although a movie theatre for many years (I spent many a hot summer day in the Capitol as a kid watching movies again and again), when I took possession in 1970, many of the stage rooms still contained memorobelia from the days of its use as a burlesque house.

AlLarkin on January 25, 2006 at 5:04 am

Perhaps Mr. Hall could satisfy my curiosity about the Capitol’s backstage. The stage portion had limited debth with exits on either side. Were the stage rooms located in the basement? I recall a track curtain with limited use prior to the big screen era. Then, as previously mentioned, a vertical curtain was installed because the newer screen had to be placed over the narrow prosenium in order to clear the exits.

RickHall on August 3, 2006 at 8:29 am

The rooms on either side of the stage were very small, the left side first floor room contained the electronics for stage lighting. There were three levels of rooms on the left side of the stage, but these rooms were very small and accessable only via a metal ladder. There were a couple of very small windows in each of these rooms. They appeared to me to be too small to be dressing rooms.

When we were setting this up for concerts, we got a set of plans from the city. These plans showed a space existing beneath the stage, but we couldn’t locate an access until we were cleaning the lighting room and discovered a trap door and a metal ladder leading down to the space. This area only had 5 ft. headroom, I don’t know if it had ever been used as dressing rooms, might have been possible if an earlier stage had been higher. We did furnish and decorate it and use it as a holding area for some of the bands who thought it was really cool to be “smuggled” down a ladder through a trapdoor into a secret room beneath the stage. Our other alternative for a dressing room was a large room that was under the first tier of the balcony and was accessed from the stairway going from the lobby to the balcony. This room was quite spacious and nicely decorated when we took possesion, but I have no idea of its original purpose.

Al, your name sounds very familiar to me, I think our paths may have crossed before.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 25, 2007 at 1:50 am

In the 1942-43 Motion Picture Almanac, the Capitol in Springfield is listed as part of the Warner Brothers theatre circuit.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 18, 2010 at 3:23 am

The Capitol in Springfield is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1800 seats and open daily.

rivest266 on September 11, 2011 at 8:59 am

This opened on April 18th, 1920. Grand opening ad posted here.

pegleg on November 12, 2014 at 12:14 am

Rick Hall!’s Kevin,yes that old 1-legged hippie. Please write me an email and we can talk about those special Capitol Theater days. It’s

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