29 Carlisle Street,
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The Majestic Theater opened on November 14, 1925 with the Cecil B. DeMille movie “The Road to Yesterday”. With 1,200 seats, including a balcony, the Majestic Theater opened as the largest vaudeville and silent movie theater in south-central Pennsylvania. Designed by the prominent Philadelphia architect William H. Lee, the Majestic Theater was built by Henry Scharf, manager of the historic Hotel Gettysburg, as an annex to the hotel. Since early-1990, Gettysburg College has owned the theater.
In the 1950’s, the Majestic Theater stepped onto the world stage when President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower regularly attended performances, often in the company of world leaders. The theater’s ballroom/gymnasium (now renovated to function as two cinemas) was often used by the White House press corps for news conferences when President Eisenhower was in residence at his Gettysburg farm.
In 1983, a fire destroyed the Gettysburg Hotel, which had been converted to low-income housing, and the Majestic Theater sustained water damage. In 1984, the Majestic Theater was reopened and converted into a triplex cinema (not the same triplex configuration as today).
Movie premieres at the Majestic Theater have included the 1970 North American premiere of Federico Fellini’s masterpiece “Satyricon”, and the 1993 world premiere of Ted Turner’s Civil War epic “Gettysburg”.
A $16 million eighteen month restoration of the Majestic Theater concluded with a grand reopening November 14, 2005, the 80th anniversary of its first opening night. In honor of the largest personal financial gift to the restoration of the Majestic Theater, the name ‘The Jennifer and David LeVan Performing Arts Center’ has been added to the marquee. The family donated over one million dollars, helping to obtain the needed $8.5 million in grants from the state to complete the project. John Milner Architects were employed for the restoration, with the architectural firm Killis Almond Associates.
The lobby has been redesigned and expanded to take up the space of the four store fronts which used to be there. Three of the interiors are now part of the lobby and the fourth is a restaurant.
Meticulously re-created in the historic auditorium, are its original Colonial Revival style features including the decorative pressed metal ceiling, stained glass chandeliers, the proscenium arch framed by massive Doric columns and pilasters, elaborate stage draperies, plush seats with hand painted cast iron standards, and custom-woven wool carpets. The pressed tin gold and polychrome ceiling was refinished. The central chandelier is a replica as the original one was destroyed in the 1970’s when the auditorium was triplexed. The wall sconces are replicas of originals. The color scheme was also restored, to Gingersnap Brown, Terrain Tan, Oak-Buff Yellow, Carlsbad Canyon Orange, Iron Gate Gray, Eucalyptus Leaf Blue Green, and glazes of Gold and Bronze. The auditorium now sits 622 in the orchestra level and 194 in the balcony.
The historic auditorium hosts Broadway shows, classical and popular music, dance, comedy, childrens classics, local college and community performers.
Two new cinemas were built to showcase American independent films, classics, and foreign films. The larger cinema seats 192 patrons, and is designed for flexible presentations including film, lectures, recitals, and black-box theater. The second cinema seats 93 patrons and is dedicated to films every night. Both cinemas feature 35mm and digital projection systems, Dolby digital surround sound, and luxury stadium seating.
The Majestic Theater is on the National Register of Historic Places.
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