Olympia Music Hall

17 Pleasant Street,
Worcester, MA 01609

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View from the projection room.

An old theatre on a side street in the heart of Worcester, Massachusetts. Lothrop’s Opera House was opened on August 17, 1891 with “The Specter Bridegroom and Queena”. Over the years it presented drama and vaudeville, with stars such as Al Jolson & Charlie Murray appearing. By 1914 it was operating as a movie theatre named Pleasant Theatre. By 1926 it had been renamed Olympia Theatre was operated by E.M. Loew’s Theaters Inc. as a movie theatre. It was later twinned and operated for many years as an adult film theatre, which closed in January 2006.

It has since been de-twinned and in 2019 there were proposals put forward to reopen as a music hall/bar & grill named Olympia Music Hall with a 999 seating capacity.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 31 comments)

Frank1956
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
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
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.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 18, 2019 at 10:50 am

This theatre may be reopened. (it was never gutted out inside).There are 2 people who are negotiating to purchase it. They want to rehab it, build a forestage, and operate it as a music hall, with a bar & grill on the main floor and live music acts on weekends.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on July 19, 2019 at 10:26 am

More details about the possible reopening: the present owner paid only $60K for the building. He has let the prospective buyers into the theatre many times for planning purposes and cleaning up. There are 2 storefront tenants on the ground floor and these will be retained. An elevator will be installed in the lobby to reach the upper floors. A semi-circular forestage or apron will be built at the front of the stage. New stage equipment will be installed. For now, they seem to be using the old name “Olympia”.

spectrum
spectrum on April 12, 2020 at 2:00 pm

I’m delighted to see that my comment from 2014 is incorrect and the theatre is still standing and will be renovated!

Here are some links to good detailed articles:

Official “Olympia Music Hall” website:

https://www.olympiamusichall.com/

Details of their plan :(You can download the full plan here):

https://www.olympiamusichall.com/about

Extensive article:

https://www.masslive.com/worcester/2019/05/worcesters-olympia-theater-reborn-live-music-venue-planned-for-long-closed-historic-theater.html

Extensive photo gallery:

https://www.masslive.com/news/worcester/2018/06/a_1300-seat_abandoned_theater.html

June 2019 Article in Worcester Telegram:

https://www.telegram.com/news/20190602/music-may-return-to-129-year-old-olympia-theater

Athelstan
Athelstan on October 16, 2020 at 7:13 pm

Channel 5’s Chronicle did a story tonight 10/16/20 on the Olympia aka the notorious Art Theatre. You can find it on the WCVB website. I am pasting the transcript below.

In worcester, nicole tells us, theatergoers went to the olympia. ♪ nicole: it is easy to overlook. A historical landmark on pleasant street in worcester. The only sign on the outside of what was once the hub of nightlife here. Mosaic tiles at the feet of unremarkable doors leading to the theater. >> it is a magnificent building made from fine quality materials. It is irreplaceable. Nicole: debra packard, with worcester’s preservation society says this space originally opened in 1891 as lothrop’s opera house. It is one of the few theaters perhaps frozen in time. Covered in years of neglect, broken down this of the grand decor though they try, cannot mask the beauty of the past. ♪ >> you see the stage. One or two lights and you know there were lights all around the stage. It is just — i can’t imagine how exciting that was to come here and see those lights. Nicole: chairs beaten-down by the weight of time with intricate carvings deke through insulation that once kept the sounds of performance tightly surrounding audiences of up to 1300 people. >> it’s a great combination of the energy of the past. When it first opened, it was very unusual because the orchestra was all-female. I would like to envision what was going on especially since it has had so many iterations. >> ♪ nicole: iterations that called for an evolving clientele. >> a theater venue. Then later on it became a cinema and then a so-called fine arts cinema. Nicole: fine arts meaning? >> meaning, risque. Pornography, i guess you would call it? ♪ nicole: torn and tattered, the once elegant red carpets still covered the creaking steps that lead to the balcony and a treasure-hunt of sorts. That is where we met the buildings caretaker, glenn pieper, one of the only people who has been inside appear the last decade. >> it’s just nostalgic coming here. They used to use it, raise the curtains. Prop ratings up above. Nicole: while he hopes the curtain will once again rise on the stage, he holds dear to theatrical antiques still in working order. >> this is awesome. What is it? >> it is a projector. What they used to do the old movies with. Nicole: how did it work? >> they used a carbon rod which would create that and it would be like welding. They used the bright light. ♪ nicole: like a hollywood ending, pieper hopes for revival here. >> it is so exciting for me to think of what it could become. I think this can be a really special place. ♪ As for the olympia theater in Worcester, a 2019 couple stepped forth with plans to repurpose the property for a venue for live music. They have not been able to go on with those plans because of covid-19. The property remains on preservation worcester’s list of most endangered properties.

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