Laurier Theatre

17 Cumberland Street,
Woonsocket, RI 02895

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A neighborhood theatre off Woonsocket’s Social Corner. It was demolished decades ago. Besides showing standard second run American film fare, it also presented for several decades frequent programs of French-language films, often unsubtitled, for the local francophone community.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 26, 2005 at 2:26 am

In February of 1935 (19th and 20th) the Laurier showed the French film La Couturière de Lunéville, with Madeleine Renaud and Pierre Blanchar, continuing its policy of sporadically programming French films along with the mostly English-language ones.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 27, 2005 at 8:30 am

And on the 27th and 28th of that same month: Le Chasseur de chez Maxim’s. A number of these French films were distributed by Paramount Pictures, sans sous-titres.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2005 at 10:38 am

Social drama! In 1934 there was a textile workers' strike in Woonsocket. Here national guardsmen are on hand to prevent trouble. In the background we accidentally get a glimpse of the Laurier Theatre vertical marquee. The scene is Cumberland Street.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 25, 2005 at 7:42 am

And here is the first decent photo I’ve found of the theatre front. Looks to be about 1952.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 25, 2005 at 8:03 am

And for you Laurier fans, here is a history of the theatre from Woonsocket, Rhode Island – A Centennial History, 1888-1988:

To meet Jazz Age demands for additional public entertainment centers, two new theaters and a new ballroom were erected in Woonsocket in the 1920’s. The first of the new playhouses to be opened was the Laurier Theatre, located on Cumberland Street near Social Corner. Named in honor of Sir Wildred Laurier, the first French-Canadian to be elected Premier of Canada, the theater was established to promote French culture in the city.

The first attraction to be presented at the Laurier was the opera “Carmen” on April 19, 1920. Directed by Professor Chambord Giguere, it featured a cast composed mainly of French-Canadian talent from the city. Nearly every seat was filled for the performance. The Laurier Theatre was operated by the Social Amusement Company, and was the site of the first New England appearance of the celebrated Paul Whiteman and his Palais Royal Orchestra on May 14, 1922. A capacity audience of 1,200 people attended the performance sponsored by LaRoe’s Music Store.

For a time, top vaudeville acts and several of Canada’s most popular stock companies and comedians were featured at the Laurier, but eventually it fell upon lean years and was converted into a second-run movie house. The theater was badly damaged in the flood of the Social district in August, 1955, and was razed three years later.

The second playhouse to open during the 1920s was the Stadium Theatre at Monument Square.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 25, 2005 at 9:23 pm

From Woonsocket, Rhode Island – A Centennial History, 1888-1988:

World War II years at Woonsocket theatres

Throughout the war years, local movie houses supplied war-weary citizens with much-needed entertainment. At that time the city boasted six theaters: the New Park and the Stadium at Monument Square, the Bijou on lower Main Street, the Olympia and the Rialto in the Market Square area, and the Laurier in the Social district.

Movies not only boosted patriotism and morale, but they also were instrumental in raising millions of dollars in war bonds. Theatergoers were constantly reminded on newsreels and by screen actors that there was “a war on.”

These same movie houses were also used for bond rallies which included live stage acts. One such rally was held at the Stadium Theatre on June 13, 1944. Billed as the Fifth War Loan, the spectacle included a local war hero, Captain John T. Godfrey, and Woonsocket’s young Eileen Farrell, who music critics claimed was on the verge of a “brilliant operatic career.”

The most impressive of these bond rallies was that of September 9, 1943. This “Salute to Our Heroes” dinner was sponsored by the local theater managers headed by Benjamin Greenberg.

1950-1960

Those seeking an evening, or even an afternoon, at the movies had their choice of six movie theaters in 1950. The Olympia, Rialto, Bijou, and Stadium on Main Street; the New Park on North Main Street; and the Laurier on Cumberland Street. Most of these had matinees as well as evening performances, and all featured two movies—the double feature.

Competition for customers, plus the beginnings of competition by television, led theater owners to add inducements to their movie billings. At the Olympia, viewers could play “Honey” for cash prizes, while the New Park featured Silver Dollar Nights. At the Laurier, management appealed to the distaff side by offering china and silverware as gifts. Those who sought family entertainmnet could travel to the Rhode Island Auditorium in Providence to enjoy the Ice Capades for a price ranging from $1.25 to $3.80.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 18, 2009 at 10:15 am

From an article on Woonsocket theatres in The Providence Journal.

Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin May 16, 1985

BUT BACK then the Stadium’s competitors were not the multi-screen shopping center cinemas. There was the Olympia, successor to the city’s original theater, The Music Hall, which opened around 1850. Located at 40 Main St., across from what is now Bob and Ray’s Furniture (for many year’s Kornstein’s), it became the Nickel Theatre and, in 1900, the Strand. It has at least one claim to local theatrical fame – the great actor Edwin Booth played Hamlet there on Thanksgiving Day, 1872.

“Fire took the lives of two children at the Strand on New Year’s Day, 1926. After repairs it reopened as the Olympia Theatre, but also became known as the "scratch house” because of the fleas that shared seats with patrons. The Olympia’s slogan was “Big Shows, Small Prices” and lower budget Republic pictures were featured, along with the chance to play “Honey” for cash prizes.

“The Olympia showed its last movies in the 1950s, its insides removed and shrunk from its original five stories to two-and-a-half floors of office and retail space when remodeled in 1956. It played home to such local fixtures as the Coney Island wiener restaurant and the Brass Rail bar before falling to the wrecker’s ball only last September.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 18, 2009 at 10:21 am

My above post for the Olympia was mistakenly put on this page. I intended this one on the Laurier:

From an article on Woonsocket theatres in The Providence Journal.

Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin May 16, 1985

“THE SOCIAL NEIGHBORHOOD had its Laurier Theater at 17 Cumebrland St., named for Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. "One of our finest movie houses,” is how one-time Woonsocket Historical Society President James C. Byrne remembered it.

“Today’s head of that group, Phyllis Thomas, recalls how her prim and proper French teacher urged her high school pupils to sharpen their ear for the language by attending the French films sometimes shown at the Laurier, and unwittingly recomending some rather "racy” movies.

“Ads for the Laurier’s second-run and B-movie fare in 1944 bore the slogan "Always a Good Show.” Those shows sometimes included a breath of home for Woonsocket’s many Canadian immigrants. For instance, a two-night stand that April by the “Fameuse Troupe Jean Grimaldi de Montreal… an all-new French 3-hour Riot of Fun” crowed the billing, with such attractions as Rolando Giraldo “The Canadian Cab Calloway.” All for 65-cents in the orchestra and 55-cents in the balcony. The Laurier fell victim to Hurricane Diane that flooded the Social District in 1955."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Paul Whiteman conducted a concert at the Laurier in May 1922.
CLICK HERE.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 1:28 am

This theatre was part of the September 1923 6th Paramount Week. In this advertisement from the (Providence) Evening Tribune, September 1, 1923, we see a fascinating list of Rhode Island area theatres, many long-gone and long-forgoten, or even unheard of, as well as what they were showing during that week. CLICK HERE

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