Capitol Theatre

390 S. Main Street,
Fall River, MA 02721

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 28, 2015 at 3:27 am

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

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The Capitol Theatre was the last of several theaters in Fall River designed by the firm of J.M. Darling & Son (Joseph M. Darling and George S. Darling.) Following J.M. Darling’s death, son George and daughter Maude Darling Parlin, who had joined the firm in 1921, changed the name of the firm to Darling & Parlin and went on to design at least two more theaters in Fall River, the Durfee and the Embassy.

buzzbaybear on January 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm

to answer a previous question- the projector (shown in the youtube clip is a Brenkert Enarc BX 60.

Best of luck in the endeaavor to restore this theatre.

Frank C. Grace
Frank C. Grace on August 3, 2010 at 8:44 am

Latest news on The Capitol Theatre: View link

By Michael Holtzman
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Jul 31, 2010 @ 09:07 PM
Fall River â€"
A University of Colorado professor with city roots recently helped summarize the extraordinary work 13 graduate students have done to rehabilitate the circa 1926 Capitol Theatre.

Robert Flanagan said the spring semester design project at the College of Architecture and Planning was not about elevations, drawings and models placed on walls and tables before the small gathering.

“Itâ€\s all about the people and how they work together,” he said. “What weâ€\re trying to do is save a piece of Fall River, and everyone has a role in it.”

Flanagan compared the Capitol â€" which was shuttered more than a half-century ago â€" to other nearby theater arts revival projects in cities like New Bedford and Woonsocket, R.I. He encouraged owners Donna and Glenn Viveiros to stay with the project.

“Just keep opening the doors, try to keep people involved and move it forward,” Flanagan said.

While the community will help decide whether and how to drive the project forward, students spent thousands of hours recreating what had been, what exists and what could be achieved through their design research and architectural vision.

In their design, they incorporated a square block cultural arts complex around the theater building at Morgan and South Main streets, including a key role for the 150-year-old former N.B. Borden School, an old fire house and adjacent spaces.

It could be an anchor for rebirth by attracting activities from culturally rich Columbia Street and the waterfront, students said in their summary report.

Several of the UColorado students had been to the theater using distance meters, laser measuring devices and other tools to uncover the past and recreate plans that no longer exist. Four months ago, they made a presentation of their work to the owners, Mayor Will Flanagan (no relation), his staff and others interested in the theaterâ€\s revival.

On this day, two of them used video chat to summarize the potential.
Jeffrey Daigle, one of the student project leaders, said revitalizing the theater for live performances and film assumes the rehabilitation project will proceed as funds became available.

The report said many of the 1,500 seats are in poor condition. With code and permit requirements, the total number of seats would likely be reduced to 1,200.

The sound and lighting booth needs to be remodeled to include movie projection. Similarly, rigging, electrical and sound systems need a complete overhaul for the stage. The stage is adequate for musical and dramatic performances, although support spaces do not meet modern standards and need to be wholly reconfigured, the report said.

Student Chris Byerly and another student created a three-dimensional model of the envisioned square block performing arts complex. Their drawings and then-and-now photos showed the dramatic changes since patrons first arrived via street car when the theater opened 84 years ago.

Daigle described how the vacant Borden School, with 20-foot ceilings and old basketball gym, would be conducive for music and dance instruction and theater rehearsals. A parking lot behind the theater could be used as a public park or outdoor performance space, connecting it to the school grounds.

A large costume shop and café fronting South Main Street would and bring life with complementary uses, according to floor design plans by Talia Rubin.

“Theaters generally donâ€\t make money,” Flanagan noted during the program. Itâ€\s the people and other businesses, theaters and cultural arts attractions that revitalize areas and upgrade the economy, he said.

Their conceptual plans included replacing a furniture store next door for arts-related uses, and possibly converting a small plaza across the street for a parking garage.

Ideally, they said, such parking could serve current and future downtown uses.

“Everything is related to the performing arts,” said Rubin.

“If we donâ€\t respect our past, it will get lost,” she said. “I think a lot of us took that route to make it a theater arts complex.”

Others offered support during the hour-long presentation by Flanagan and the two students via video chat.

Darlene Pavao, a teacher with the Resiliency Preparatory School, said her students benefited from what they heard.

“Theyâ€\re excited to see thereâ€\s more for the arts. I think they notice that thatâ€\s missing here,” said Pavao, who has worked with Donna Viveiros on this project.

She said her students, using the school’s print shop, would create a “Capitol Theatre Performing Arts Center” banner for the building.

Alfred Lima, a retired planner and community activist interested in the cityâ€\s history, offered to show how the graduate studentsâ€\ plans can be integrated with the downtown and waterfront areas.

Peter Daley, a recent University of Massachusetts graduate, has been working to identify grant funding sources.

“This is whatâ€\s going to get this theater up and running,” Donna Viveiros said during the presentation. Many times she thanked Flanagan for choosing this project.

“Once the city of Fall River comes in and sees what can be done, it will get a lot more people involved,“ she said. "Theyâ€\ll see the beauty of the theater and what it can do for the city.”

She and her husband bought the building four years ago for $600,000 and started a nonprofit organization. They’re trying to get the property included in the National Register of Historic Places.

She plans to seek grants, make presentations and hold fundraisers using a creative video of the old theater and the grad studentsâ€\ work. Sheâ€\s hoping others will join in.

Flanagan noted the timing of the endeavor coincides with the stateâ€\s plan to build a SouthCoast train station by 2016. “Now Fall River has a chance to catch up. I think the timing is terrific,” said Flanagan, who left the city as a graduate student and whose parents and brother remain here.

“We want the project we came up with to be a starting point,” Daigle said.
Like other students from his team, he promised to stay involved.

E-mail Michael Holtzman at

Copyright 2010 The Herald News. Some rights reserved

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 23, 2010 at 3:42 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, May 18, 1946:

“A new marquee at the Capitol Theatre, James McNamara, manager, has been completed. It is the latest in modern artistry. It is V shape of neolite glass with neon lighting and decorations. Concealed lights illuminate the ceiling. The new marquee replaces a rectangular canopy which was damaged several times by high trucks. Recarpeting of the orchestra floor has also been completed. Alterations in the ladies' circular lounge are also in progress.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 20, 2010 at 2:48 am

Portuguese films at the Embassy, Capitol. Item from Boxoffice magazine, October 29, 1955:
“Sponsors of Portuguese presentations have selected the stilled Embassy Theatre to present productions on Sundays of each week for an indefinite period. Portuguese films are offered weekly at the Capitol, which now resumes its seven-day policy.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Pics of the interior and exterior of the Capitol and other FR theatres can be seen on this page:
View link

paradoxfox on May 5, 2009 at 12:53 pm

What ever happened to the ideas of refurbishment?

I don’t recall going to the Capital when it was a functioning theater, but I do recall being taken to the bowling ally, as well as the furniture store, after it had closed. During those times my grandmother always took pains to try to show me where the theater was, although it was not open. I was bewildered by this- a theater that was still there, but not? I’d love to see photos of what is , and what was.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 25, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Would it not be nice if at some point a public tour could be offered of the interior? It was done recently with the Orpheum in New Bedford. This might stir up some public support for the restoration of the building, a project that, if I gather correctly, is languishing. A web site devoted to this theatre, with photos, might be nice. Look at the Orpheum, New Bedford site put up by O.R.P.H.

jbentley on October 25, 2007 at 12:38 pm

The projector is still in the projector room in the balcony. I have no idea if it is in any kind of working condition. I would think not. A portion of the balcony including a portion of the projector room was destroyed by fire in the late 1970’s

ABCDEFGH on October 20, 2007 at 9:24 am


Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 2, 2006 at 4:39 am

According to a recollection of Fall River theatre manager John McAvoy, another one of the top-grossing films to play the Capitol in the 1940s was the B-movie Black Market Babies.

jbentley on June 28, 2006 at 3:44 am

I was at the Capitol theatre yesterday and met a man that worked there many years ago. He was a great source of info. His mother played the organ at the Durfee and when the Durfee was demolished the organ was auctioned off and he bought the organ. He has the organ and the pipes and is interested in donating them to the Capitol if the theatre can be renovated. The original floor at the front entry is still intact under the newer flooring. It is amazing how much of the original is still there and was not destroyed when the theatre became a furniture store.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 28, 2006 at 2:31 am

Some history and facts about the Capitol from information found in the “Theatres” clippings-file at the Fall River Library:

The Capitol Theatre opened on Tuesday, February 2, 1926. 2,000 people lined the snow-banked streets as the first night audience made its way in to see Richard Barthelmess in Just Suppose. Mayor Edmond C. Talbot was among the guests and the activities of the first show were broadcast over radio station WTAB. The owners, artists, and architects who built the Capitol were all from Fall River. The interior style of the theatre was a modified Italian Renaissance. Its lobby flooring was of terrazzo marble. The Capitol was equipped with some love seats, deeply cushioned to give the settee effect. The foyer boasted the largest mirror in the city, 8 x 15 feet. The mural painted over the main entrance was by the Czech Roderic Riseman, a duplicate of the famous futuristic work which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. The Capitol had a workable stage, comlete with dressing rooms and had stage shows during the 1930s.

For much of its life the Capitol was a “move-over house.” It generally played for a second week movies that had already played the Durfee, except when the Durfee had a fire in 1945. Then the Capitol was a first-run house for a while. One of the top-grossing films was the 1946 sudser with Gene Tierney Leave Her to Heaven.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 6, 2006 at 5:13 am

We can both thank user jmed, whose collection this is, posted earlier on the Durfee page and the links page. Mr. Bentley, I hope you keep us updated on progress at the Capitol. It would be thrilling if this theatre could eventually become another Zeiterion or PPAC.

jbentley on June 6, 2006 at 4:44 am

I can’t thank you enough for the photos of the Capitol theatre. These are the first that I have seen. It’s amazing how much of the original scroll work is still there – The new owners are starting to take down some of the false walls and ceilings and they are uncovering a lot of things that were not destroyed – just covered. Thanks again.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 6, 2006 at 4:29 am

An impressive collection of rare photos of the Capitol and other Fall River theatres can be seen by clicking here.

jbentley on May 27, 2006 at 6:04 am

The architect for the theater was J. M. Darling. He died the day ground was broken for the construction of the theatre. His son George Darling and his daughter Maude Parlin-Darling oversaw the conpletion of the project. The firm was based in Fall RIver, MA. The theatre opened Feb. 1, 1924. Every person and company invloved in the construction, financing, decorating, etc. of the theatre was from Fall River. The photo that is shown in the above email is the rear of the buildng. the theatre is largley intact – the balcony is still there, the projection booth – with the projector still in it – the chandiliers, wall decorations, etc are still there. many fake/false walls and platforms were constructed when it became a furniture store. New owners have recently bought the building and they would like to revive the theatre. I am an architect in Fall River and was called in to look at the buildng this past month. There was a fire in the 1970’s and some of the balcony was destroyed but much was saved. Unfortunatley photos are hard to come by and no one came seem to find any of the theatre facade.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 13, 2006 at 8:09 am

The MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form for the Capitol in Fall River has a facade photo taken in May 1941. There is a rectangular marquee with “Capitol” at the top-front above which is an illustration of a capitol dome. There are 3 lines of black letters on a white background. Films playing are : “Marxmen Go West”, a “merry mad musical”; and “The Trial of Mary Dugan”. The address is at 390 S. Main St. The Report states that the theater had been showing MGM product for over 10 years; that it was over 10 years old; that it was in Fair condition; that it had 1018 seats on the main floor and 543 in the balcony, total: 1561 seats. The competing theatre is listed as the Plaza. The 1940 population of Fall River was 115,400.

DickMorgan on July 30, 2005 at 7:05 am

I recall only seeing one movie here and that was Gigi. I am not sure if it was 1958 or 1959. Gigi had it’s world premier in New York in May of 1958 and Fall River being a movie outpost at the time, probably did not get this roadshow attraction until 6 to 9 months later. This engagement at the Capital may actually have been a move-over since the Capital back at that time generally showed re-issues and 2nd run features. I enjoyed this film mostly because of how handsome I though Louis Jordan was (still was in Octopussy ) and also I was a big fan of Hermione Gingold (she was great in The Music Man!). I do recall that the sound system here was great for this film, but being 8 years old at the time I don’t recall anything of the projection quality here. The Capital closed soon after this time and I don’t think ever re-opened as a movie theater. I do remember it being a bowling alley (bowling was going through a huge popularity back then) and not sure when it then became a furniture store. Does anyone know if the same people that managed the Durfee, Empire, Center also owned the Durfee Lanes and the Capital Bowling Alley? Just curious on this.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 9, 2005 at 10:36 am

Here is a photo of the auditorium exterior. For a time the theatre was a bowling alley.

ghpetrin on October 14, 2004 at 11:12 am

This theatre is located at 390 South Main Street. It is now a home furnishing store. The basic structure, facade and balcony are all still there.