Bates Theatre

7 North Main Street,
Attleboro, MA 02703

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Bates Theatre

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A lost theatre in the village center of Attleboro, Massachusetts. Information on the theatre would be appreciated.

Contributed by Gerald A. DeLuca

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

Roland L.
Roland L. on June 22, 2005 at 10:19 am

The Bates Opera House opened on Sept. 30th, 1886 with the play Richelieu starring Lawrence Barrett. The building itself was erected and donated to the city of Attleboro by Joseph M. Bates, a noted local jewelry manufacturer.

The original opera house had the lobby on the second floor and the ornate boxes occupied the second floor but the theater ceiling did sweep up and occupy most of the third floor.

On January 31, 1912, a steam automobile was turning the corner of North Main St. lost control and actually backed into the plate glass window of a store on the first floor. The vehicle exploded inside the shop and caught fire to the shop. The Bates Opera Theater was significantly destroyed and the ornate seating boxes and crystal chandelier were lost.

It took one year to rebuild sans ornate seating boxes and the elaborate glass chandelier fashioned for the original theater. A fourth floor was added to the building at this time and the name was changed to the New Bates Theater owned by the Bates Theater Company.

The Bates Opera House starting showing silent films in 1909 to compete with the Columbia Theater on Bank St. and lured Thomas Heywood from the Orpheum Theater located on Pine and Park Sts.

In 1915, the New Bates Theater was the first in the city to show a full-length movie (12 reels) called “Birth of a Nation”. This picture was originally traveled with its own orchestra!

I’ll be posting more on the creation of the Orpheum (very interesting!), Gem, Park and Star theaters separately.

The Bates Theater Company would later acquire the Columbia Theater in 1915 but let it run independently until 1924 where management would later affiliate the Columbia and New Bates theaters.

In 1928, the New Bates and Columbia Theaters were leased to the Savoy Corporation. The Columbia continued under their direction until 1935 when it was razed.

I am still unclear as to the last year the New Bates Theater operated. According to print, I can only assume that the New Bates ran until at least 1946 where the owners had plans to modernize the theater. Television and other factors forced them to abandon their plans and soon afterwards new plans utilizing the area for office space soon appeared.

James Fisher
James Fisher on November 4, 2005 at 4:42 pm

Just a tag info on Bates: i lived in Attleboro and worked @ the Union for many years from July 4 1976/ 1991. Only 9 then when i stated helping out, i recall alot of things Roxy Pichi talked about. How he started out and then he became the Assist Manager/Manager for the Bates til 1945 and in 1946 he transfered to operate the Union Theatre at age 22. Recalling alot of talk Roxy did as i grew up spending time in the Union Theatre with dreams of my own i know the Bates owned the Union The admissiont to the Bates was nothing like today a mere 10 cents lol and in 1946 it was just a quarter i know that Admission to the Union on Dec 23,1955 went to 65cents for adults and 30 cents for children only due to the Disneyrama (Walt Disney Cartoons)feel free to email me i my self have Managed 9 Theatre’s and three drive in’s now iam working for Disney wow!

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 22, 2006 at 7:06 am

The Bates' Opera House is listed under Attleboro, MA in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide, an annual publication for roadshow producers and stage managers. It refers twice to the theatre as Bates', in the possesive, (pronounced “Bates-es”). The listing says that the theatre had about 1,000 seats, with a stage 43 feet deep, and a proscenium arch 30 feet wide and 27 feet high. It says the theatre was on the ground floor, and ticket prices ranged from 25 cents to $1; the Manager was J. G. Hutchinson. The house orchestra had 7 members, led by T. Link. There was apparently a Bates' Opera Cafe in or near the theatre. The population of Attleboro in 1897 was 8,000. There was also a Bates Opera House in Weymouth MA, in Weymouth Landing, right on the Weymouth-Braintree town line.

James Fisher
James Fisher on April 28, 2007 at 11:35 pm

well it was wrong the theatre was located on the upper floor there two sets of stairs leading up that are still there wide granite stairs the inside was spectacular from what i have heard ,large ceiling with chandeliers. box office was on ground floor main entrance, concession at the head of the stair and then the stair leading in to the orchestra and opening night the tickets were set at a low .05cents til the late 1920 at which point you could get your self a drink and popcorn for .20 costing around .25 per person which then was a lot of money for most of the Jewelry city population

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 4, 2009 at 11:15 am

The Bates Opera House in Attleboro is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1000 seats and being open 6 days per week.

TLSLOEWS on March 2, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Nice vintage photo James Fisher.

James Fisher
James Fisher on June 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm

thanks i have a few pictures of the theatres i worked in or associated with over the years

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on June 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive in Illinois has the MGM Theatre Report for the Bates Theatre. It gives the address as 4 Park Street. The theatre was in Fair condition and had been showing MGM product for 6 years (from 1935). There were 621 orchestra seats and 358 balcony seats, total: 979. Competing theaters were the Union in Attleboro, and the Darlton in Pawtucket RI. There is an exterior photo taken in May 1941.

steverobichaud on September 23, 2015 at 7:28 pm

First full length movie was “Birth of a Nation”? That was a foul racist pro-KKK propaganda film. How does that fit your liberal mindset?

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