Elm Theatre

16 Elm Street,
Portland, ME 04101

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Elm Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Elm Theatre opened on September 25, 1916. The main floor featured continental seating, with the aisles confined to the sides of the auditorium. There was also a large balcony. A small but adequate stage was used for vaudeville in the theatre’s early years, but movies were a mainstay throughout its history.

The facade, of gray brick with concrete trim, featured the triumphal arch motif popular for theaters at the time, and the keystone of the arch was a carved stone Face of Mirth. A stained glass window in the arch lighted the mezzanine foyer.

The front was studded with electric lights, the most striking feature by night being a 28-foot tall tree set with green lights in the spring and red lights in fall to suggest the colors of the New England woodlands.

The Elm Theatre closed in 1952 and was demolished the same year. After many years as a parking lot, the theater’s site and adjacent lots are now occupied by the modern main branch of the Portland Public Library.

Contributed by Joe Vogel

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 28, 2013 at 10:38 am

This photo from Maine Memory provides a rather oblique view of the Elm Theatre dated 1920.

The “Face of Mirth” that adorned the keystone of the theater’s arched entrance was unearthed when excavation for the new library was being done in 1977, 25 years after the theater had been demolished. Here is a photo of it.

A plaque installed at the site where the artifact is now displayed says that the Elm Theatre was designed by local architects William R. Miller and Raymond J. Mayo.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 7, 2015 at 11:04 am

In Donald King’s article about Portland theaters in THSA Marquee Magazine, 1st quarter 1991, he states that when the Elm opened in Sept 1916, the auditorium was decorated in a blue & gold motif, and that the balcony stairs were lighted glass. The CinemaData file for the Elm states that it was later known as “Playhouse/ Portland Playhouse” but King does not mention any later names for it. (But I suspect that King’s article in Marquee was condensed.) When the MGM Theatre Report project came to Portland in Spring 1941, they did not include the Elm, for some reason.

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