Jane Pickens Theatre

49 Touro Street,
Newport, RI 02840

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Jane Pickens Theatre

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The Jane Pickens Theatre is a historic single-screen theatre that is beloved by Newport residents. It was originally built as a church in 1846. As a theatre it has been showing movies since 1923. Formerly known as the Strand Theatre, it is where many independent and foreign films have played in recent years, as well as selected popular movies. The theatre has a balcony and a pipe organ that has been used for theatre organ recitals. The interior had a kind of classic simplicity while being at the same time a very pleasant and placid environment to be entertained in.

Like its neighboring theatre, the Opera House Cinemas, it too has been used for screenings in the annual Newport Film Festival. Washington Square, where the Jane Pickens and Opera House are, was turned into a 19th Century port town for the filming of Spielberg’s “Amistad”.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 55 comments)

50sadchairs on June 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I found this on NewportNow.org from a March 26, 2010 article.

NEWPORT, R.I. â€" The founders of the now darkened Newport International Film Festival are hoping to introduce a new festival this year, continuing the tradition of celebrating cinema in Newport.
According to the Providence Journal, the new film festival, which has yet to be named, will span just one day sometime this summer, with a more robust five day run planned for next year.
Behind the effort are Nancy Donahoe and Christine Schomer, who founded the Newport International Film Festival in 1998 before withdrawing from the operations in 2003 and 2002, respectively, and Andrea van Beuren, the director of documentary and children’s films for NIFF.
Scheduled for sometime in July or August, the new festival hopes to draw heavily on the peak tourist traffic, which NIFF never fully benefited from due to its June scheduling.

nickelodeon on June 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

Has anyone taken any pictures of the Marr & Colton organ? It had a unique feature of silent movie mood presets. Posters here say it was from the New London Capitol. John Hammond was the organist there in 1926, the year it was installed. He was also Rosa Rio’s first husband, who just passed away. They both accompanied silents in New London. Would love to see pictures. New London-born here, too.

bcnett on September 7, 2010 at 4:21 am

I was in there last year and took several pictures of the organ. If I knew how to attach them to this comment, I would. The organ is unusual in having a Symphonic Registrator, a second stop rail with mood stops (blind combinations labeled according to the action on the screen, such as love, chase, and children). As house organist at the theatre for years, I can testify as to how helpful that is in accompanying a silent movie. For dramas I used the mood stops almost exclusively. For comedies it is not as effective. The organ is no longer playable due to Perflex, but is still there on the floor to the left of the stage. The owner of the theatre would be thrilled to have it working again.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on January 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

The Jane Pickens in Newport has been named one of the top 5 movie theaters in New England by Yankee Magazine.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

Nice place buy yet they freely substitute DVDs in lieu of 35mm projection whenever they want. I won’t go there any more for that reason.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 3:57 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. The Strand (as it was then called) was showing Pola Negri in The Cheat as one of its features. CLICK HERE and move image to see all theatres.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

This Providence News piece from January 11, 1919 reports on plans to use the Lafayette Theatre (earlier name for the Strand & Jane Pickens) as a “community theatre.”

AlanHemenway on June 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

My father, Gilbert Hemenway, was a projectionist from 1936-1956, mostly in New Bedford but also Fall River, Dartmouth Drive-In and Fairhaven Drive-Ins, and briefly in Newport. I believe he was here at what used to be the Strand. I went with him once in about 1955. From the descriptions, I don’t think it was the Paramount, even though my father worked for at least 3 of the 4 Zeits theaters in New Bedford. It certainly wasn’t the Opera House. I don’t remember the park across the street. Perhaps the trees were smaller. I had thought there was another theater across the street from the Strand but I must have been wrong. I thought it was a busier street with sailors round about. There are stores that must have been lit up. The setting for the Paramount doesn’t seem to fit my impression – with the church across the street.

If you would like to have a few laughs, read my entry under the Plaza Theater in Fall River. My father was mischievous. One night he made the rooster on the Pathe Newsreel crow nine times. Read about his other pranks. He was also The Ghost of the New Bedford Theater — check that one out.

We moved to Los Angeles in 1956 for my father to find work. The more that TV got established, the more theaters were closing and projectionists out of work. I’ll be back there in a few weeks to take a look at this theater — the only one left open, and is of two left standing, that my father worked.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2011 at 4:09 am

In the October 30, 1961 issue of Boxoffice Magazine, an ad was run showing how many mainstream theatres were showing Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a subtitled Italian movie. This theatre was one of those in Rhode Island. LINK

CSWalczak on May 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

When converted to a movie theater in 1919, the building retained the stately columned front from its days as a church. This was modified some time in later years so that it looks as it does now. There is additional history on the official website’s history page.

There is a picture on this webpage of WW I soldiers lined up to see a film at this theater when it was the Strand in 1919, apparently soon after the building went into use as a cinema (scroll down; it’s the last one at the bottom of the page).

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