Art Theatre

17-27 Pleasant Street,
Worcester, MA 01609

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A view from the balcony 10/26/16

An old theatre on a side street in the heart of Worcester, Massachusetts. By 1926 the Olympia Theatre was operated by E.M. Loew’s Theaters Inc. It operated for many years as an adult film theatre, which closed in January 2006.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 27 comments)

bbatty on May 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm

There are a lot of great comments here about the old Lothrop’s Opera House\Olympia\Fine Arts. However, I’m surprised that in all this time the pictures have not been corrected. The two pictures displayed on this site ARE NOT the same building being described. These pictures are of the Worcester Theatre on Exchange Street in Worcester. This is the second Worcester Theatre, rebuilt right after the original 1860’s building was destroyed by fire in 1889. This was the “high class” legitimate playhouse of the period that saw most of the great stage actors of the 19th and early 20th century appear here.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

bbatty: The 1986 photo linked to by lostmemory in the comment of May 15, 2009, shows the same building that is in the Google Street View currently displayed at the top of this page. The Google view shows Pleasant Street, and is dated August, 2007. I believe that the Worcester Theatre on Exchange Street was long gone by that time. The theater in our photos has to be the Lathrop’s/Olympia/Fine Arts.

Here is a photo of this theater when it was the Olympia. The John Wayne movie Flame of the Barabary Coast is advertised on the marquee, which dates the photo to about 1945.

The photo comes from this weblog post about songwriter Joe Goodman, which is worth a visit in its own right, as are Chet Williamson’s other posts about Worcester’s songwriters.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 6, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Joe Vogel is correct: both the Google Street View at the top of the page, and the photo linked to by Lost Memory in May 2009 are of this theater, the Art.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 6, 2013 at 7:50 pm

I don’t know why I wrote Joe Goodman in my previous comment. The songwriter’s name was Joe Goodwin.

The Worcester Theatre isn’t listed at Cinema Treasures, and I’ve been unable to discover if it ever showed movies, other than a single exhibition of an early sound film process in 1913. Here’s a page with a photo of it anyway. It had a somewhat more ornate front than the Fine Arts, with some nice Romanesque detailing. Almost every comment on the page conflates it with either the Lothrop’s/Olympia/Fine Arts or the Poli/Hanover Theatre.

Frank1956 on April 5, 2014 at 4:02 pm

It is the old Olympia. On the second level there still sits in history, the old cast iron chairs with wood seats that fold down. Above and behind the seats in the projector room there is an old projector that used an electronic type rod that (I think)was carbon arc light. There were some old carbon arc rods just sitting around. Yes, lost in time however very interesting just to sit on the old seats and imagine.

Frank1956 on April 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Did anyone know that there is still an old theater on Main Street in Worcester about 400 feet to the left of the renovated Hanover Theater and across from the old Denholm building.? It is on the second floor. curtain still in place, seats still in place. Does anyone know the name of the hidden theater? I was in there about 5 years ago as a visitor.

spectrum on January 29, 2016 at 3:21 pm

It looks like the auditorium has been demolished. The building with street frontage showing above is still there in Google Street Views, but that building definitely isn’t big enough to house the auditorium – From the back it looks like it connected with something that is now demolished. There’s a parking lot there now.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm

I have to disagree with Spectrum about the building not having been big enough for a theater, and about the auditorium having been in an annex on the Pearl Street side of the block. For one reason, the buildings along Pearl Street were already gone in a 1995 photo at Historic Aerials. The theater was still in operation s late as 2006. Someone who was inside the Art Theatre in September, 2008, described in this comment by Ron Salters, said that the auditorium was in fairly good condition at that time (the auditorium has apparently since been gutted.) It also says that the theater’s stage was only seven feet deep.

This earlier comment by Ron Salters cites a 1941 MGM report saying that the theater then had 650 seats on the main floor and 536 in the balcony. The footprint of this building is quite ample for a 650 seat main floor and a seven foot deep stage. Keep in mind that this was an upstairs house (probably one of the last in operation in the U.S.) and could use the entire depth of the building, all the way to the street wall, for the theater, with none of its space taken up by those storefronts, which are on the ground floor.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 30, 2016 at 10:28 am

Two THS members went inside the Art around March 2005 while scouting for the 2006 Boston convention of THS. It was operating at the time. I was not with them. The entrance was on the far right of the building with a nice staircase going up one flight. The proscenium and stage were at the left end of the building. They stated that there was a second screen in the balcony, however the visitor in 2008 reported that the auditorium was whole. Anyway, the front wall of the building served as the left sidewall of the theater.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 19, 2018 at 11:09 am

I heard recently that this theater is still intact inside and has not been gutted out. It has been made whole and is no longer a 2-screen auditorium. I saw a photo of the proscenium and stage. The seats in front have been removed. The stage is remarkably shallow. I have no idea what plans are in place for this building.

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