Johnston Theatre

Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street,
Johnston, RI 02919

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 15, 2011 at 6:48 am

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

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 10:43 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 June 25, 2010 at 9:02 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 7:46 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 24, 2010 at 6:52 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 20, 2010 at 10:43 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 19, 2010 at 2:30 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 August 24, 2005 at 11:48 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 May 19, 2005 at 8:31 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.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 1, 2005 at 6:23 am

The Film Daily Yearbook, 1950 lists the Johnson Theatre as being in the distrct/town of Thornton. It had 350 seats.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 1, 2005 at 6:00 am

And more historic photos of the plain and modest Johnston Theatre where I grew up watching movies in the 1940s-1950s.
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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 31, 2005 at 2:55 pm

Here it is again in an earlier shot, probably taken in the 1950s, where the Johnston Theatre sign can be seen, not yet replaced by “Italy Cinema.” Another Saint Rocco’s parade. Thornton Spa was named after the village of Thornton, which straddled the border of Johnston and Cranston at Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Street.
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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 31, 2005 at 2:37 pm

Here’s a photo of the Johnston Theatre when it was called Italy Cinema in the early 1970s. It was taken during a Saint Rocco’s Feast parade associated with Saint Rocco’s Church across the street from the former theatre. The theatre was located on the second floor of the building block, a wooden structure known as Ferri’s Block. The name “Johnston Theatre” can be seen behind the newer Italy Cinema sign.
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RobertR on November 29, 2004 at 1:02 pm

Another classic matron story. I wish we had a big coffee table picture book with all of them in it.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on November 29, 2004 at 12:56 pm

In its Cinema Italia phase, when the theatre was leased and programmed by Mr. Rolando Petrella of the local Italian-language radio programs, many popular Italian films of wide appeal to the Italian-speaking audience were shown, generally without subtitles. The Italian comic Totò was a standard favorite and would always draw larger audiences. In March of 1967 a film of his, the 1954 “Miseria e nobilità” (co-starring a young Sophia Loren) played here alongside the non-Totò “Il conte di Matera.” The general American film-going audience never really knew Totò except from art-house fare like Monicelli’s “Big Deal on Madonna Street” and Pasolini’s “The Hawks and the Sparrows.” In recent years, however, there have been Totò retrospectives and tributes at places like the Museum of Modern Art and the Walter Reade Theatre in New York.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 18, 2004 at 6:33 am

Nostalgic memories of the Johnston Theatre are many. As a child in the 1940s into the 1950s I remember regularly walking to the Sunday matinees at this theatre where the admission was 25 cents. The two-bits got you two movies, previews, cartoons, and for a while, a Roy Rogers Club featurette. 10 cents would get you a soda and a candy bar. Popcorn was no more than a dime. The kiddie-packed matinee, filled with screaming, unruly kids constantly running back and forth, particularly during quiet moments in any movie, made for an exceptionally raucous environment. All this was kept under reasonable control by an elderly matron who ran from row to row (she had a pronounced limp) and, with flashlight a-waving, snarled at kids in an attempt to keep them in line. She looked like the Wicked Witch of the West. Later, in our teen years, we would forego the Sunday matinees in favor of the Friday night shows,which is what all the local kids went to. We related to James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and EAST OF EDEN on a double bill at one of those shows. By common consent, the right rear of the theatre was reserved for smooching (and more) by amorous adolescents.