Fitchburg Theater

717 Main Street,
Fitchburg, MA 01420

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spectrum on October 10, 2018 at 10:13 am

It looks, from Matt Lambros’s article, that Fitchburg State University, which recently bought the entire block, is planning renovations to both the overall building and the theatre itself. He also has some great photos, both exterior and interior!

Let’s hope this renovation project goes forward!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 6, 2018 at 5:12 pm

We have the wrong address for the Fitchburg Theatre. It was at 717 Main Street, just a couple of door down from the the Saxon Theatre. The building is currently under partial renovation to provide space for Fitchburg State University, and there are long-range plans to renovate and reopen the theater itself.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on January 4, 2018 at 9:22 am

I recently visited the Fitchburg Theatre – check out a short write up and photographs at After the Final Curtain

lgevangelista on September 27, 2015 at 4:19 pm

I was just wondering if its possible to get in? The history of it is fabulous and it would make a wonderful backdrop to a student film I’m making

jvelmar on March 15, 2015 at 12:48 am

The Fitchburg Theater, specifically this one, actually has/had two screens. I toured it in 2014 and only came out with one worthy photograph (which I uploaded). The lobby is a junk storage area, the first screen has been torn down and the second screen is still up with all its graffiti in tact. Another building that hasn’t been cared for and is overrun with mold. It could still be saved, and I hope someone does.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 4, 2015 at 10:25 pm

The Fitchburg Theatre section of the Old Theaters of Fitchburg web site (the same site petermetzke linked to in an earlier comment) says that the house opened on February 7, 1929. That makes it the most likely candidate to have been the theater project on which construction had just begun in 1928, according to an item in the July 8 issue of The Film Daily. The new house for the Kenmore Realty Company was to cost $175,000 and had been designed by Boston architect George W. Jacobs.

Killljoy on July 26, 2010 at 2:25 am

I have great memories of the Fitchburg Theater. When I was little they’d play 2 movies on the Saturday matinee & raffle off a bicycle between shows. And I worked as a projectionist there for about a year during high school. Playing first run movies like Body Heat, Arthur, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Halloween & the Empire Strikes back. I was trained on the carbon arc projectors in that oven of a projection booth by a genius named Leo & ate a lot of Espresso pizza with Frank. Bill was the owner & his brother Brian & Chinky ran the place. (Had to drop the keys of to them after we closed at night to TWEEDS restaurant.)
I really loved that beautiful old place, but was never smart enough to take any pictures of the inside before it was ruined. (Which really was kind of stupid considering Leo was teaching me photography at the time.)
Try to explain to a kid today how immense & ornate that screen/stage was. How incredible the acoustics were or… terrifying it was to walk through in the dark, barring all the doors after closing, while Dave (another projectionist) played the theme from Halloween.
It really was something standing at the top of the balcony, just below the projectionist booth stairs & being able to recite every line of Raiders while downing warm soda & stale popcorn. It was a time & place I’ll never forget.
Anyway. I really enjoyed this page. Thanks for the memories.

rparry on April 12, 2010 at 6:35 am

I worked at the Fitchburg Theater from 1978 to the middle 80’s and what a time it was the concerts like Devo,Jay Ferguson,Johnny and Edgar Winter. Awesome. And the midnight movies The song remain the same and the Rocky Horror Picture show. But in 1980 the theater was turned into a 3 theater I remember caddy shack was there at the time the guy who owned it was Bill Haney. Then he sold it to USA cinemas and one night they had a party and it was the beginning of the end. They used water hoses and cut the big screen up what a waist. I was in the theater last summer The downstairs is all gone the big screen is gone. the other 2 theater’s are still there. I got a lot of old stuff out of there last year lots of memories. Buy the way Brian I am sure I remember you.

kencmcintyre on March 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Here is a July 1960 ad from the Fitchburg Sentinel:

rbjt97 on December 19, 2008 at 2:55 pm

does anyone know who owns this theater now?

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 23, 2007 at 10:25 am

soundmemory- thanks for putting this up, very interesting stuff !

petermetzke on December 23, 2007 at 8:08 am

Here is a small page I have put together from down under in Australia for all people interested on this page in the old Theatres of Fitchburg. Turn your volume up as it contains music ! and enjoy.

View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 19, 2007 at 8:14 am

The Fitchburg Theatre is listed in the 1942-43 Motion Picture Almanac as being run by the Maine and New Hampshire Theatres of Boston. That same circuit also ran the Shea’s Theatre in Fitchburg.

kencmcintyre on March 3, 2007 at 9:57 am

This ad in the Sentinel dated 3/14/61 references Winchendon’s reference to the Strand/bowling alley in Fitchburg. The Strand has not yet been added to CT, as far as I know:

9.45 a. m. to 11. 45 a. m.
at the
New Palace Lanes

Free Coffee â€" Pastry â€" Instructions
Visit us and see for yourself how the old Strand Theatre was converted to the most beautiful 26-lane Bowling Center, complete with large private room for all your social gatherings.
For Reservations and Details Dial Dl 3-6268

Cleghorn Square

kencmcintyre on February 19, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Theater for sale in the Fitchburg Sentinel, September 1953:

THEATRE BUILDING, Just off Main St. Could be continued as theater or converted to store, studio or quarters for a civic organization. No information on telephone. Ralph S. Foster & Sons, 336 Main St.

Debi on December 28, 2006 at 5:12 am

does anyone know who currently owns the Fitchburg? Or how much damage was done to that wonderful ceiling during the roof collapse? I would love to opportunity to take some photos of that ceiling and that huge screen if it indeed still exists.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on December 6, 2006 at 8:26 am

The expression “RKO Vaudeville” means that the vaude acts were booked through the RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) office (ex-Keith’s); the RKO movie studio was a different arm of the same company. Most of the theatres in Massachusetts which still presented some live Vaude, like the Fitchburg Th. in 1932, would have booked it through RKO.

kencmcintyre on December 2, 2006 at 1:05 pm

In 1932, the Fitchburg offered vaudeville shows as well as films, according to the Fitchburg Sentinel. Five acts were presented each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The advertisement references “RKO Vaudeville” but I don’t know what the actual connection was between the studio and the vaudeville acts. Other theaters in the area were the Strand, Universal and Cumings.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 27, 2006 at 8:46 am

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Fitchburg Theatre on Main St. has a facade photo taken in May 1941. The theatre’s entrance was in the middle of a 2-story business block with a rather nice facade. The attraction posted on the marquee in white letters on a dark background is Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr in a movie with a title that looks something like “G-WhitComrade X”. The Report states that the Fitchburg has been playing MGM product for over 10 years; that it’s over 15 years old; that it’s in Good condition; and has 1066 orchestra seats and 685 balcony seats; total: 1,751 seats. The 1940 population of Fitchburg was 41,800.

blaperriere on September 22, 2006 at 9:53 am

I worked at the Fitchburg Theater for some time. I was a Projectionist there when it closed, that was a very sad time for all of us. It was in the mid 80’s shortly after USA Cinemas bought it. It never became a 5 or 6 screen theater but it was a 3 screen for a very long time. The balcony was sectioned off to two individual theaters and the main floor was the largest theater. We always had a problem with the roof leak and shortly after it closed it did indeed collapse.
I have a lot of great memories of that old theater and would love to see it reopened someday. If you ever want to know what it was like to work there you can get a glimpse from movies like “Empire Records” although this movie never showed there the closeness of the employees and all their quirks bring back great memories.
A little inside joke for anyone who used to work there; The Chocolate Monkey Says Hello…”

Daryl7280 on March 17, 2006 at 4:11 pm

I grew up in Fitchburg and in the Fitchburg Theater. The Fitchburg was a gleaming example of an “Art Deco” style movie house, built in 1927, with a seating capacity of 1700. As a child growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, I witnessed this beautiful old movie house filled to capacity many times. I can still picture the giant chandeliers which graced the ceiling that seemed to be a hundred feet tall, the wall sconces that lit the outer aisles, and the signature neon clock near the emergency exit. I remember also, seeing a double feature, plus cartoons, shorts, and the occasional newsreel, all for about 50 cents! Right next door was the Saxon, (originally the Lyric). Though much smaller, (probably about 800 seats or so) it was no less grand, with a beautiful white ballastered balcony. Among the last things I saw at the Saxon were Johnny Winter, live in concert, and The Beatles Yellow Submarine movie. That was about 1968, afterwhich the theater closed, and fell into a state of disrepair. The roof collapsed and the building was razed. The Fitchburg however survived awhile longer as an operating entity. I made a trip out west in October of 1984. While in Phoenix Arizona, I happened to eat at a trendy restaurant which was decorated with all sorts of antiques. What fascinated me the most, was a glass case on one wall, filled with old theater posters, including some from The Fitchburg, and also Shea’s Theater in Fitchburg. Immagine my surprise to see this, 3000 miles from home! I was amazed to see names like Eddie Cantor and Rudy Valee on the stage at the Fitchburg, illustrating the theater’s Vaudville past. I returned from my trip to read in the paper that someone new had taken over the Fitchburg Theater, and renovated it into three smaller auditoriums. The balcony area was split into two theaters, and the downstairs was left intact as one, including the enormous screen, which I read someplace was 62 feet long, and rumored to be the largest indoor movie screen in New England. Although I never substantiated that as fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. The new operator also installed a new Dolby sound system throughout. To the best of my recollection, he ran it for two or three years, finally closing the doors for good. A couple years later, the ticket booth was vandalized, and was eventually removed from the front of the building. The Gourgeous neon script lettering sign on the overhang, had also been removed, prior to the last operator taking over, and it was replaced with simple flat panel signs with changeable letters. I feel sad everytime I pass through town and see it boarded up, and more than once I’ve thought how wonderful it would be if someone would restore this treasure before it meets the same fate as it’s sister next door did. I suppose It’s lucky just to have it standing at this point. My thought was that perhaps with the help of the the historical society and other such groups, The Fitchburg could be brought back to life, and used to show current as well as classic movies, plus used for stage productions, plays, dance recitals, and even rented out as a function hall for various corporate events, seminars and as a small concert venue. The Fitchburg was among the largest and most opulent of all the theaters in the area. There were six or seven in Fitchburg alone at one time, including the Saxon/Lyric, Shay’s theater on Day Street, (which had become the Gem, and was closed by the early sixties), The Universal Theater, on lower Main Street, (where Dunkin Donuts now stands)My dad was an usher at the Universal when he was a teenager. There was also the Cummings theater on Blossom Street, (in the area of the parking lot behind the former Roger’s in the Square store), and the Strand on Daniels Street in the Cleghorn section of town. This building also still exists. Last I looked, it housed the Palace Lanes Bowling Alley, a gym, a bar, and several apartments. If you enter the square in Cleghorn, the building had a mural painted on the wall that I believe was the outside of the wall the screen was on. Anyway, with regard to the Fitchburg, one has only to go down the road to Clinton Massachusetts and view the Strand Theater, (completely restored and successfully operated), or travel in the opposite direction to Keene New Hampshire and see the wonderfully restored and successfully operated Colonial Theater to realize that the same thing could be done in Fitchburg. Better still…rent the Jim Carrey movie “The Majestic” and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Bobby2003 on September 8, 2004 at 1:50 pm

I used to go to the fitchburg theater in the 1970s, and early 80’s. It was truley a magnificent theater. Unfortunaltely most people forget that in the 1980’s, or mid 90’s someone bought the theater, and gutted it to turn into into 5 or 6 screen movie theater. It later went belly up, and was brought by Loews theater corp, and closed shorlty after. I think the roof later collapsed due to water damage, so I suspect that with that damage from neglect, and the damage from being turned into a 6 screen complex, any origional architecture has probably been destroyed long ago.

michacavan on June 14, 2004 at 6:11 pm

As of June 2004 nothing has been done with this theater. It is still closed and still no real plans. Every once in a while someone proposes an idea but nothing has come of any of the ideas yet. You would think that because this building is across from City Hall it would be a big issue. It isn’t however, and the building is a fire waiting to happen. Fitchburg is dying and taking this theater with it.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 2, 2004 at 3:50 am

I have an old postcard, mailed in 1916, showing the “New Whitney Block and Bijou Theatre, Main Street, Fitchburg, Mass.” Perhaps I can post it when the site’s photo feature returns.