Art Cinema

1017 Broad Street,
Providence, RI 02907

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Flyer for The Hurricane, 1937.

Viewing: Photo | Street View

For many decades this was a neighborhood theatre, the Liberty Theatre, in the Elmwood/Washington Park area of Providence. In 1958 it became an art house, programmed by the Lockwood Gordon chain that owned the Avon Theatre on the East Side of Providence. The first film under this new policy was Rene Clement’s “Gervaise”.

Though at first moderately successful, the theatre went into decline as programs failed to attract significant audiences to that out-of-the-way part of town. Adult films, mostly of the soft variety, failed to change things and the theatre eventually closed by the time the 1970’s arrived.

The building is still there, but the theatre has been pretty much gutted and the raked floor made level. The proscenium and projection booth were still there when last I looked. The place was a used furniture store for a while. The dilapidated marquee remains. There has been talk about a neighborhood-generated restoration effort, but nothing seems to be happening.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 88 comments)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 21, 2010 at 4:38 am

From Boxoffice magazine, February 4, 1956:

“In the most extensive cooperation promotion ever seen in this area, 14 Providence and nearby houses used record-breaking newspaper advertising space in heralding the joint premiere of "The Day the World Ended” and “Phantom from 10,000 Leagues.” Virtually taking over the amusement pages of the local press for several days, the following houses united in the ad: Elmwood, Hope, Uptown, Liberty, Castle, all in this city; Community, Centredale; Strand, Pawtucket; Union, Attleboro; Hollywood, East Providence; Palace, Cranston; Community, Wakefield; Park, Auburn; Palace, Arctic and Stadium, Woonsocket. A brief checkup of local houses indicated that opening days were solid."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2010 at 8:24 am

Projected opening of Art Cinema in 1958 announced in article in Boxoffice magazine, January 13, 1958:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 9:41 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, February 17, 1958, relating to the upcoming run of The Miracle of Marcelino at this theatre:

Anticipating the forthcoming screening of “The Miracle of Marcelino,” Mrs. Ann Cohen, publicity director of the Art Cinema, has invited all of the Religious throughout the Providence diocese, pastors, priests, nuns, and sisters, to a special private screening. Those required to remain on duty while others attend have been invited to see the picture free during the run. Furthermore, it is the policy of Rhode Island’s newest art house to pass in members of the clergy of all denominations at all times. To tie in with the presentation of “The Miracle of Marcelino,” Mrs. Cohen is arranging for a special display of art in the lobby, though the courtesy of Salve Regina College, Newport. A special party for children from Catholic institutions is also being arranged. The youngsters will have the theatre to themselves and candy, ice cream and cakes will be served. Other facets of Mrs. Cohen’s extensive publicity campaign include special advertising in the Visitor, weekly diocesan newspaper, news breaks and printed invitations to church and state dignitaries.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 9:56 am

Studios sue Milton and Edward Bomes for false reporting of boxoffice receipts at their Liberty Theatre in Providence and Hollywood Theatre in East Providence.
Item in Boxoffice magazine, October 25, 1952:
View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

In September 1922 this theatre was part of Rhode Island’s Paramount Week. Click to see the ad in Providence News, September 1, 1922, which contains a list of all participating theatres as well as the films shown that week. At that time this theatre was called the Liberty.

PART ONE OF AD
PART TWO OF AD

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 26, 2011 at 11:09 am

As stated in a previous entry, the Liberty Theatre opened on March 7, 1921. This newspaper ad appeared the previous day:
AD

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 19, 2012 at 10:26 am

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

nritota
nritota on November 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Matthew

I sent you a separate email on this.

Nick

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 2, 2015 at 11:18 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Report for this theater when it was the Liberty. It’s Card # 546. There is an exterior photo taken May 1941. The address is 1017 Broad. Condition is Good. It was showing MGM films, and had 800 seats.

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