Columbia Theatre

589 Charles Street,
Providence, RI 02904

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The Columbia Theatre opened in the late-1920’s as a roofless theatre called the Continental Theatre. Later it became a fully-enclosed theatre, and was also called the Rivoli Theatre. It was located in the Eagle Park neighborhood of Providence, a predominantly Italo-American enclave on Charles Street. The theatre closed for good in the 1940’s and was eventually replaced by a bank.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

TomFal
TomFal on March 20, 2004 at 2:37 pm

I would like to add some comments re: the Continental Theatre in the above write-up
My name is Thomas V. Falciglia. I am eighty years old and am the son of the man who first built this theatre in the early 1920’s. His name also was Thomas Falciglia (no middle initial). It is true that the theatre had no roof when he first built it because my father did not have enough money to complete that phase of the construction. However, that did not inhibit him from opening the theatre, and operating it as often as the weather permitted. This lasted for a couple of years until he was able to borrow more money to complete the roof job.
I was only a small boy at the time the theatre was built, but my memories of the wonders that were produced there are vivid and spectacular.
Dad was not wealthy, and was the son of an immigrant from Italy.
He had a dream.. He loved the theatre, and was himself an actor, and musician.
His dream was to build a theatre, which would quench his thirst for artistic involvement, and also would become become a source of entertainment, in a local neighborhood in Providence, for everyone with limited entertainment budgets.
I remember “The Perils of Pauline”, The adventures of Tom Mix, Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard. I remember Tugboat Annie with Wallace Beery,
I remember Buster Keaton, Theda Bara, and so many other silent film greats. It was magic time for me, and everyone else in the neighbjorhood
Dad’s niece was the pianist for him during the silent film era.
I believe he was one of the first to introduce “talking pictures” to the people of Providence. They used the ‘Vitaphone System" in those early days. This was a system with large sound-recorded disks which were amplified, played, and syncronized with the talk and sounds on the silent screen.
Those were the days of dinnerware handouts, silverware handouts,and many other promotional devices to keep customers comming back week
after week. The theatre was “Cinema Paradisio” for that neighborhood in Providence.
Eventually the great depression in the late twentys and early thirties caught up with dad and his dream. The income dwindled and soon the theatre was lost to the loan sharks and the banks who imposed their demands.
Thomas, though, was still recognized throughout Providence, as an innovator with great talents as a promoter.. He was hired by several major theatres in the city to manage their operations, and in fact,
in the lobby of the Columbus Theatre on Broadway in Providence, there is a display describing that theatre’s history, and Thomas Falciglia is named as one of their early managers.
As his son I have so many more wonderful memories of my days at the Continental Theatre, and would be happy to describe them for anyone interested.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2006 at 3:46 am

The 1949 Film Daily Yearbook lists the seating capacity as 278.

ming
ming on October 20, 2007 at 9:49 am

Hi, i’m a risd student from the dept. of interior architecture. I’m currently doing a research project on the old theatres of Providence and only found this great website.
It’s amazing to hear the theatre stories straight from the people of those days like Mr. Falciglia, and would love to hear more of them.

I actually came across another “Columbia” building on 15 Snow St, but dont think its the same one talked about here.

Is it possible to interview you, Mr. Falciglia??

Have a great day, everyone!

TomFal
TomFal on March 24, 2008 at 12:10 pm

I would be happy to discuss the Continental Theater with anyone interested…. and my experiences as a young boy, who grew up amid the wonder and facination of movies as they progressed through the “silent” and “talkies” eras…….Great memories!
Please list you email address here, and I will contact you
Tom Falciglia

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 8:14 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, June 22 1946:

“The freak hurricane damaged the screen of the Open Air Theatre in Bellingham so badly that Fred Parker has had to close the spot indefinitely. As he had just closed the Columbia, Providence, for lack of business, it appears that Parker will be out of the industry for a time. He had opened the Open Air late in May.”

russellpascetta
russellpascetta on April 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

does anyone have any photos of the Columbia Theatre on Charles St in Providence

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 10, 2011 at 8:42 am

Russell, I asked that same question to Tom Falciglia, son of the man who built the Columbia. He said he had none and didn’t know of any. Perhaps some photos may emerge at some point, from neighbors of the theatre, for example. Unfortunately there are numerous RI theatres of the past of which no known photos exist, for example the Olympia in Woonsocket, the Broadway in Pawtucket, the Gem in Arctic.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 27, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Several nostalgic comments related to this theatre by people who had visited the place before it closed in the 1940s can be found on the Facebook page “I grew up in the north end of Providence.” Also, in hastily describing this theatre in my description at the top of the page, I incorrectly referred to the neighborhood as Eagle Park, which is actually a short distance from here, rather than as the North End.

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