Leroy Theater

66 Broad Street,
Pawtucket, RI 02860

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Main Facade, 1948

Pawtucket’s “Million Dollar Theater” opened May 1, 1923 to a packed house, with numerous celebrities in attendence. Designed by local architect John F. O'Malley, the theater featured a mirrored lobby, an electric chandelier with 4,700 bulbs, and the largest Wurlitzer organ in New England. The theater was named for owner Charles T. Payne’s son, Leroy, who perished in the first World War.

With the exception of its soaring terra cotta spire, the Leroy featured almost no exterior ornamentation. Originally, only the narrow entrance and ticket booth were exposed to the street. In 1966, the adjacent Payne Building was demolished as part of the Goff Avenue widening project, leaving the theater’s bare side wall and the external truss supporting the balcony exposed.

After 55 continuous years as a movie and concert showplace, the Leroy was forced to close in 1978 due to fire code violations. Following several fizzled restoration attempts in the early 1980s and a demolition company citing the project as “too difficult”, the Blackstone Valley Ballet took over the theater in 1984. This was short-lived, and in 1985, the building was purchased by Albert J. “Albo” Vitali and played host to boxing, wrestling, and rock concerts. Vitali spent nearly a half million dollars renovating the theater, and it was declared fully restored on December 18, 1986, with Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers the featured act.

A 1987 power failure caused by Twisted Sister’s amplifying equipment was reported in a trade magazine, and the Leroy could no longer draw big-name rock acts. Even the restoration didn’t last; by 1988, Vitali was petitioning the City of Pawtucket for money to fix up the theater. Aid did not come, and following a September 28, 1990 benefit concert by Britt Small and Festival, sponsored by the Rhode Island Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club to bring the “Moving Wall” to Rhode Island, the theater unceremoniously closed for good.

The theater sat dormant until 1996, when the entire block was acquired by a Boston developer for the construction of a Walgreen’s drugstore. The City’s push for economic development was greater than community efforts to save the theater; demolition began September 9, 1997 and took six months to complete. Salvage rights to the building were sold to New England Architectural Center, and most of the interior ornamentation presently resides in their Warwick, RI warehouse. Seats were donated to the Shea High School auditorium and to the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theater in downtown Pawtucket.

The Leroy was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Contributed by Michael Pompili

Recent comments (view all 34 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 8:44 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, May 5, 1962:
“Rhode Islanders of Italian descent were particularly interested in recent programs at the Johnston Theatre, Thornton, where "The Ten Commandments” was presented with all-Italian dialog, and at the Leroy in Pawtucket, where “Buongiorno Primo Amore” and “Guai ai Vinti” were shown for a single night.

TLSLOEWS on June 29, 2010 at 11:12 am

Nice vintage photos

RIROCKS on January 16, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Hi, Great stories on the Leroy in Pawtucket. I was a stagehand at the theater from 1977 & 78. I created a website called RI Rocks regarding the venues and music scene that happened there.

I was hoping someone would have a current picture from the outside of the Leroy before it got torn down. The one I have on the website was before my time. Any pictures would be appreciated
Thank you


Matinee77idol on August 30, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Loved the Leroy. Saw my first movie there in 1940 with Humphrey Bogart. Always enjoyed looking at the small movie posters on the outside of the theater going up the block. Frank McIlmail, Rochester, MN

TivFan on January 19, 2014 at 9:51 pm

The Leroy can be seen in the 1995 film “American Buffalo”. The theater is closed and there is a FOR SALE sign on the marquee. The theater front can be seen numerous times at: 9:45/15:32/39:43/40:31. It was issued in 2001 on MGM video/dvd.

timothytanner on December 2, 2014 at 3:45 am

The first movie I ever saw there was “Mary Poppins” in the 60s.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 28, 2015 at 12:05 pm

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Leroy. It’s Card # 535. There is an exterior photo taken April 1941. The Report says the Leroy is in Good condition, is over 15 years old (as of 1941), does not show MGM product, and has 1,400 seats on the main floor, but then does not list the number of balcony seats. Competition was the Strand Th. in Pawtucket. The 1941 population was 75,700.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Interesting web page on Leroy Theatre artifacts. Lots of photos. http://www.rirocks.net/search/leroytheaterartifacts.htm

Greenpoint on March 28, 2016 at 7:12 pm

frank zappa played here 10/23/1977

jim_duprey on January 2, 2017 at 6:43 pm

I remember going to see the Batman Movie at the Leroy in 1966, starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Merideth, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier. And seeing Harry Chapin at a live concert in 1977.

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