Academy Theatre

275 Chestnut Street,
Meadville, PA 16335

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Academy Theatre

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The theater was built in 1886 and operated as an opera house under the name of the Academy of Music. It was was built by Ernest Hempstead. It hosted live stage shows up into the 1920’s when it began to share the stage with silent films. In the late 1920’s it was converted to a movie theater.

The Academy Theatre was operated by the Shadely family until the late 1960’s when it was sold to Blatt Brothers Theaters. They ran the theater until they got out of the business in the early 1980’s and the movie house was bought by another chain wich operated it for a few years until they closed it after a fire. Fortunately the fire did not severely damage the building, but it fell into disrepair until the early 1990’s when a local nonprofit group began a restoration project.

The building was placed on the National Register of historic buildings and restored very close to the original features. Unfortunately at that time there was no consideration for showing films, only live productions, so there was no plans to restore the film end of the business. In 2000 I was contacted by an acquaintance and asked if I would lend my technical knowledge and help restore the projection booth to enable the organization to run films. I was more than willing.

The Academy was and is one of those old theaters that holds many memories of Saturday matinees, important weekend dates with your favorite boy/girlfriend, and countless other occasions. Not the least of which is a good place to go see a good movie.

Contributed by Gary Williamson

Recent comments (view all 14 comments)

Patsy
Patsy on April 21, 2006 at 7:46 pm

Does anyone have a photo(s) of this theatre in Meadville PA?

longislandmovies
longislandmovies on September 2, 2006 at 4:33 am

tell me about MEADVILLE PA??????????///

Patsy
Patsy on September 2, 2006 at 8:52 am

I’m not from Meadville PA, but have visited that community a few times. It’s a quaint college town and is located south of Erie PA on I-79.

RobKightlinger
RobKightlinger on October 27, 2006 at 9:54 am

If anyone is still interested in photos of the Acamedy Theatre I can help. You’ll have to wait for the rare sunny day in Meadville for exteriors, though. The marquee was removed during the renovation as it was not original to the building so it doesn’t have what you call a movie theatre look. If you want to know more about Meadville I can try and fill in the gaps…

RobKightlinger
RobKightlinger on October 27, 2006 at 9:55 am

Also, interior shots are available. I can try and show as much detail as possible…

Patsy
Patsy on October 27, 2006 at 11:40 am

I recently heard that this theatre was for sale on eBay. Can anyone offer more information on this bit of theatre news? Friends of mine who live near Meadville, but not in Meadville told me that in their local paper there was a recent article. Unfortunately, they didn’t save the story for me to read.

RobKightlinger
RobKightlinger on October 28, 2006 at 5:06 am

The theater for sale was the Meadville Cinemas which was the last movie house in the city. The new owner(s) will have a tough go, in my opinion, if they choose the movie approach because of the new Movies At Meadville cineplex just outside of town. They have the multiple screen, Dolby 5.1 surround affair and even do football games complete with tail-gating. The Academy is still in safe hands. I was just there Friday installing a new CD player in the office.

Patsy
Patsy on October 28, 2006 at 7:02 am

So it is not the Academy that is for sale? Still would like to see some phtotos of this theatre so maybe “Lost Memory” can find some to post!

Patsy
Patsy on October 28, 2006 at 7:40 am

Lost Memory: You are the Photo Wizard! Thanks again!!!!!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2011 at 5:45 am

The official web site that Lost Memory linked to is gone, but here is a link to the new official Academy Theatre web site.

The site’s “About Us” page says that the Academy of Music was designed by the noted Chicago theater architect J.M. Wood. The page also says that the house opened in December, 1885.

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