Johnston Theatre

Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street,
Johnston, RI 02919

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Johnston Theatre

This was a plain theatre on the second floor of a multi-shop building called Ferri’s Block. It showed double bills six days a week from before the World War II era up through the 1960’s.

Later it was leased and re-christened the Cinema Italia and offered Italian-language double bills for the ethnic community. In its final days it showed porno films. The entire block was demolished in the 1970’s.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 19, 2005 at 6:31 am

Ken, the Johnston (not “Johnson”) Theatre was in Thornton, a village in Johnston that straddles the Johnston-Cranston boundary along Plainfield Street at Atwood Avenue. It’s where I live. It was up one block from the Myrtle Theatre on Plainfield Street at Myrtle Avenue.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 24, 2005 at 9:48 am

A Providence Journal newspaper article on August 13, 1956 carried the banner “Thornton Girl to Star in Movie.” The girl was 13-year-old Frances Manfredi who had a role in the film Rock, Rock, Rock under the name of Fran Manfred. The film starred Tuesday Weld and Alan Freed. Ms. Manfredi surely saw movies many times at this theatre in the village of Thornton. I don’t know what became of her, and her name does not appear on IMDb, apart from the credits of this one movie.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Manager of Johnston Theatre narrowly escapes death. This item appeared in the February 14, 1953 issue of Boxoffice magazine:

“Mario Votolato, manager of the Johnston Theatre, narrowly escaped death from suffocation recently when smoke and flames ravaged the building housing the popular neighborhood theatre. Fire caused by flaming wax in an adjoining bowling alley filled the entire Thornton district with dense smoke. Votolato entered the theatre, which was not in operation at the time, to take out films and rescue two kittens. After he entered the darkened auditorium he was unable to see, even with a flashlight. Choking with the smoke and growing weak, he dropped the flashlight. A volunteer fireman, who had entered the theatre, saw the light drop and heard the choking and thought Votolato had fallen through the floor. He inched cautiously over until he reached the body of the theatre manager and dragged him to a window for air. The manager save one of the kittens and all of the films. Votolato estimated damage to the building at approximately $20,000.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 20, 2010 at 8:43 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, November 6, 1954:
“The Johnston in nearby Thornton is giving away hand-painted ovenware to hype business.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 4:52 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, December 30, 1950:
“Mario Votolato and his wife, who recently leased the Johnston Theatre in Thornton, R.I., from Sam Richmond, were in [boston] booking at Monogram.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 5:46 am

Start of the Johnston Theatre in 1941, as reported in Boxoffice magazine, June 7, 1941:

Boroff and Tobin Take Casino in Thornton

BOSTON – George Boroff, local book distributor, and Henry Tobin, manager for E.M. Loew in Olneyville, R.I., have taken over Ferris' Casino in Thornton, R.I. The house is now undergoing renovations.

[Note: Ferri’s Casino was located in Ferri’s Block. It became the Johnston Theatre in 1941. Before that it was referred to as Ferri’s Theatre or the Casino. Thornton is a village in Johnston at the Cranston border.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 7:02 am

More of same (see above entry.)

“Henry Tobin, resident manager of the Olympia, Olneyville, has leased the Casino in Johnston from Nicolina Ferri, rechristened it the New Johnston and is operating it five nights a week."
—-from Boxoffice magazine, September 20, 1941.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 8:43 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.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 15, 2011 at 4:48 am

In September 1926, this theatre was part of the eleven-theatre Celebrate Paramount Week.
Newspaper ad.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 16, 2018 at 10:09 am

This theatre was an outgrowth of Ferri’s Casino Theatre, around the corner on Plainfield Street. That was a tavern with a fully functional movie theatre. That theatre existed from around 1929 to 1941. The Ferri family built Ferri’s Block which would house the Johnston Theatre on its second floor, and the theatre part of Ferri’s Casino would then be closed in 1941.

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