Calvin Theatre

19 King Street,
Northampton, MA 1060

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Calvin Theatre - 2001

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Once the largest movie theater in Northampton, Massachusetts, the Calvin Theatre was the home of first run films for almost 70 years.

With the arrival of megaplexes in nearby Hadley, the Calvin struggled to survive second rate film bookings and large overhead. Although Wednesday dollar nights drew crowds, little else did.

Finally, in 1994, the Calvin quietly put up a sign stating it was closed, at least temporarily. For months, a sun-bleached poster of the Jack Nicholson – Michelle Pfeiffer film “Wolf” drooped sadly in the lightbox of the film’s exterior. The Calvin had gone dark.

A shining knight saw the Calvin’s potential and bought and renovated the classic theater. Now housing mostly live performances, the Calvin does occasionally show first and second run films. The Calvin Theatre, with its new, polished marquee and facade, is back from the brink.

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 21, 2005 at 7:53 am

The Calvin was designed by the firm of Mowll and Rand. It opened on April 17, 1924. In the 1940s, it was part of Western Massachusetts Theatres. The 1998 refurbishment work was supervised by Northampton architect Thomas Douglas. The Calvin’s website contains seating charts and a rough count of the seats which I made totalled about 1,350. With the smaller seat widths in the “old days' and closer pitch between rows, the original seat-count in 1924 could have been over 1700.

spectrum on March 27, 2007 at 7:24 pm

The Calvin has been beautifully restored. It never looked too shabby even in its final cinema days, but there was major work needed for the physical plant. They did an extensive job, and now the Calvin has a regular program of concerts, plays, musicals and even occasional films!

shoshe on August 13, 2007 at 1:36 pm

The architect for the Calvin restoration is Thomas Douglas. You can get info and see images on the firms website, Look under “Perform”.

spectrum on September 7, 2007 at 9:48 pm

The restoration of the auditorium was very well done. Unusual color scheme (yellow & gold primarily with various muted shades of green & white trim, but a whole lot better than the original appearance, and the color scheme extended to the formerly all dark brown ceiling. The place is certainly brightened up! The first thing i saw entering the outer lobby was they removed the drop ceiling of the 1960s, revealing the former two-story lobby ceiling which had been hidden for decades.

Nathan Goldstein had renovated the lobby areas in the early 1980s, and actually did a very good job – the walls were painted with cream color paint that must have had mica mixed in because the walls literally sparkeled (it was muted and tasteful, not ostentatious) – it really looked nice and I wish they had kept that effect in the latest renovation. But they still did a great job.

The Calvin showed 2nd run movies as far back as I could remember (1970s – of course all theatres in Amherst/Northampton were 2nd run in those days), and remained 2nd run when the Hadley malls finally became 1st run. Although they did get a 1st run of Star Trek: the Motion picture in 1979 (originally was to be the exclusive booking in the area but the malls got it too). This drew some good crowds – in the 600-700 range – but still not enough for them to open the balcony. I had to wait until 1980 and an arlo guthrie concert to get upstairs (still had seats from the 1930s up there!) When they started showing occasional concerts in the early 1980s it was reported that until the end stage had been unused since the 1920s.

Before ther renovation, it was mostly cream color and the wall columns had blue background with dingy gold paint sloppily applied over the decorative motifs (vines and fruit, a simpler version of some decorations at the wonderful Wang (nee Metropolitan) theatre in Boston, MA. ) The ceiling was a dark marblized brown color. The areas between the columns had square accoustic tiling in a nice harlqeuin (read tilted 45 degrees) pattern going up about a third of the way, which I (in my architectural ignorance of 20 years ago) assumed had been original with possibly damask fabric above (which actually wouldn’t look that bad – the walls are a little bare now).

ERD on May 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

The photo must be from 1986 since it is showing the movie DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS

ERD on May 15, 2009 at 10:25 am

Just saw an interior photo of the restoration. The theatre looks beautiful.

ERD on October 6, 2009 at 5:46 am

The photo is from 1976 since that is the date the movie on the marquee was released.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 17, 2010 at 11:51 am

There are 2 movie theaters listed under Northampton in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook. One is the Academy and the other is the “Coolidge” with 1000 seats and open daily. I guess that the Coolidge is actually the Calvin.

gd14lawn on December 23, 2010 at 12:29 am

I was never here for a movie but it is a great concert venue. They filled in the orchestra pit and add additional seating for some concerts. For the more rock and roll concerts they use the front space as a dance floor.
The theatre is really lovely, with wood paneling throughout much of the house. It does seem to have a roof problem now. There is some water damage to the plaster in a few places. It seems to be very heavily booked and I hope they can fix it before the damage becomes extensive.

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