Jane Pickens Theatre

49 Touro Street,
Newport, RI 02840

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 8, 2019 at 2:24 am

In his 1981 book “Reflections of a Rock Lobster-A Story About Growing Up Gay,” Cumberland RI author Aaron Fricke mentions visiting the Jane Pickens Theatre with friends for showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and what happened at them.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 9, 2017 at 8:02 am


davidcoppock on October 9, 2017 at 7:13 am

Who is Jane Pickens?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 25, 2015 at 8:11 am

PHOTO OF STRAND THEATRE IN 1941 MGM REPORT Thanks to Theatre Historical Society of America.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for this theater when it was the Strand. It’s Card # 530. Address is 49 Touro St. There is an exterior photo made May 1941. Condition is Excellent. It was over 15 years old, and was showing MGM films. There were 486 orchestra seats and 212 balcony seats, total 698 seats.

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).

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

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 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.”

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

snorwood on February 3, 2010 at 6:44 am

The Newport International Film Festival appears to have folded. The web site and phone numbers are no longer valid, and the organization has not renewed its corporation status with the Secretary of State’s office. Too bad.

(I and many others are still owed money for services provided at last year’s festival.)

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 15, 2009 at 8:00 am

A week ago Saturday the Newport Film Festival presented a showing of the 1927 silent film East Side, West Side, perfectly projected in a pristine archival 35mm print from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. There was live piano accompaniment, making it a tremendously exciting event.

bcnett on January 18, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I was in the theatre with the new owner last month. It is in better condition than ever. The organ is still there, on the floor to the left of the stage, intact though unplayable. The owner would love to have it restored, but the cost is prohibitive. I was house organist there for 10 years, spent many happy hours at the console. I played before the shows two nights a week and accompanied silent pictures. Whenever there was a stage show, the organ was the opening act, usually with a silent comedy.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 18, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Article in The Providence Journal on Joe Jarvis, and his naming and management of the Jane Pickens Theatre:

Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin Mar 25, 1986

“When Joe Jarvis was a kid growing up in East Providence, his one ambition was to get into the movie theater business. In 1936, when he was 16, he got his first job as an usher at the old Hollywood Theater on Taunton Avenue across from City Hall.

“At that time you had double features,” he recalls. “I worked six days a week for $7 and I thought that was wonderful.”

“Today, 50 years later, the 65-year-old Jarvis is still spending at least five days a week selling tickets at the Jane Pickens Theatre in Newport, only now he’s the owner as well. "To me this is not a job, because I enjoy it,” he said.

“For Jarvis, the last 10 years, since he bought the former Strand on Washington Square, restored it and renamed it after actress and Newport summer resident Jane Pickens, have been a return to simpler times when showing good movies to an appreciative audience was the most important thing.

“It wasn’t always so. After working his way up to head usher ($10 a week), he served in the Navy during World War II, then returned to the Hollywood as assistant manager. There, he learned the art of promotion as the owners sought to fill up the 1,100-seat theater, which was limited at that time by film studios to second-run films.

“On weekends, in addition to the double features, there were vaudeville acts and regular appearances by local favorites Marie and the Hollywood Orchestra. On slow Mondays and Tuesdays, there were dish nights "for the ladies” and on Wednesdays there was bank night, sort of an early version of Lot O Bucks.

“Then, after a second tour in the Navy during the Korean callback and two years managing a small theater in Vermont, where he met his wife, Jarvis returned to Rhode Island and got the opportunity to run his own moviehouse in his home town. It was 1955 and the theater, which he leased, was the old 400-seat Lyric in Riverside.

“"This was a time when television was really hurting us,” Jarvis said. Another problem was the theater’s location off Maple Avenue, on the wrong side of the tracks. “Riverside used to be a tough neighborhood and it was really something to get people to go down there.”

“Jarvis changed the theater’s name from Lyric to Gilbert Stuart and began a campaign to clean up its image. If the movie-going crowd was tough, so was Jarvis, remembers Providence native John E. Connors, now city manager in Newport. "He used to haul kids right out the front door.”

“He also immersed himself in community affairs and served a term on the East Providence School Committee. His most successful public relations effort was a series of ads he’d write about coming attractions, giving his own critiques of shows he’d seen at the first-run houses in Providence. The technique worked so well MGM asked him to travel around the country and speak to other theater owners.

“In many ways it was an idyllic time. Known and respected in the community, Jarvis was happy with his life and his business. "It was a family affair. My wife (Joanne) sold tickets for me,” he said.

“In 1965, the opening of the two-screen Four Season Cinema in Rumford by the Esquire group forced the closing of the Gilbert Stuart. Jarvis switched over to Esquire as manager of the Four Seasons and his career took on an accelerated pace.

“"When they built the Four Seasons, they were the first suburban theaters to become first-run in Rhode Island,” he said. As the downtown Providence area went into decline and emphasis shifted to outlying communities, Jarvis became district manager for Esquire, in charge of theaters in Pawtucket, Smithfield, Middletown and elsewhere. The life was fast, with a lot of traveling and no shortages of acquaintances happy to accept the free movie passes Jarvis handed out.

“But he still didn’t have a theater of his own, so in 1975 he bought the run-down Strand in Newport, once part of the Esquire chain. "When they found out that I bought it, they let me go,” he said.

“Jarvis tided himself over by working for B.A. Dario at Loew’s State in Providence for a year while renovating the Strand. "It was terrible. I wanted to give it a new image and with a new image, I wanted a new name. Jane Pickens, a singing and stage star of the 1940s, agreed to lend her name if he promised never to show X-rated films, a proviso he had no difficulty meeting. "I wouldn’t run a theater if I had to bring in X-rated movies to make a living,” he said.

“Nor would he attract much of a following in Newport. "The audience here in Newport, they know what they want to see. They enjoy the better film,” he said. Knowing this, Jarvis, who prefers a good comedy himself, tries “not to get the run-of-the-mill picture – more of a class picture.”

“As the owner of one of the last, certainly largest, single-screen cinemas in the state, Jarvis has little margin for error in selecting movies. After previewing a film in Boston, where the major studios maintain offices, he offers a bid price, which often requires a cash advance, along with a guarantee of playing time.

“If he books a flop, as he did several years ago with "Alien,” a science fiction movie, he loses money for the duration, with no extra screens to offset the loss. Sometimes he wins, outbidding the big chains for a sleeper like “E.T.” “I won that bid,” he said. “It ran for about 14 weeks.”

“Adding a screen or two would give him more flexibility, but his clientele, in a survey he conducted last year, let him know emphatically they wanted the theater kept whole. Aside from offering "a clean house and a big screen,” Jarvis, the promoter, provides his customers a little extra.

“On Wednesday and Saturday evenings, theater goers are treated to pipe organ music by members of the Southeastern New England Theater Society. The organ is a 1926 Marr-Colton symphonic registrator originally used to accompany silent films. It was rescued from a New London, Conn., theater by the society and given a home at the Pickens several years ago.

“Last year, Jarvis also provided a late-evening home to Flickers, the Newport Film Society, which has its own art film following. Last summer, he gave customers a taste of bygone days by opening up the balcony, a policy he will renew this summer.

“In his 50th year in the business, Jarvis and his family – his wife still works beside him – have found their own home at the Jane Pickens. "When I was starting out, I thought, ‘When I get older I’m going to get a theater of my own, or a chain of my own.’ I never got a chain, but I certainly have a theater of my own and I’m very happy.”"

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on February 19, 2008 at 11:09 am

The Jane Pickens Th. in Newport is the only cinema in Rhode Island to exhibit the series of operas from La Scala Opera House in Milan, plus 2 other theatres in Italy, run by Emerging Pictures and Screenvision.

SSCemployee on July 6, 2007 at 8:16 am

I worked there in 1991 with a wonderful women named Rose. Beautiful place.

Marialivia on February 20, 2007 at 3:18 pm

I’m always so delighted to hear mention of the Strand Theater! As I have mentioned previously, I was employed back in the late 40s as a “candy girl” at the Strand in Pawtucket, which was owned by the same folks that owned the Newport Strand, and the manager who was my “boss” in Pawtucket, a Harold Lancaster, had previously been manager of the Strand in Newport.

Thanks for posting this article! Marialivia

kencmcintyre on February 20, 2007 at 1:31 pm

This article (which I condensed) was in the Newport Daily News, 1/27/59:

St. George’s Church Votes To Move To Middletown

The corporation of St. George’s Church voted last night to move to a four-acre site on Valley Road in Middletown and to construct a new church there. The Valley Road site was offered last year by Esau Kempenaar of the Boulevard Nurseries, whose family has long been associated with St. George’s. The gift site is just south of East Main Road, on the west side of. Valley Road, and would be about opposite the proposed Middletown high school.

The parish now known as St. George’s Church was founded here in 1833 as Zion Church and first met in the Colony House. An edifice was constructed at Touro and Clarke Streets and was consecrated in 1834. It is now the Strand Theater. The building was sold to St. Joseph’s Church in 1885 and the present site on Rhode Island Avenue was purchased in the same year.