Plaza Theatre

617 State Street,
Schenectady, NY 12305

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Fabian Theaters, RKO

Architects: John Adolph Emil Eberson

Styles: Atmospheric, Spanish Renaissance

Previous Names: RKO Plaza Theatre

Nearby Theaters

Plaza Theatre

The RKO Plaza Theatre was opened on August 28, 1931, with Maurice Chevalier in “The Smiling Lieutenant”. Designed in an Atmospheric style by theatre architect John Eberson, the theatre took three years to build. There was an enormous lobby, complete with ornate chandeliers. Seating in the auditorium was provided for 2,500 in orchestra and two balcony levels. As well as movies, the RKO Plaza Theatre hosted stage shows and performances by the likes of the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra with Eugene Ormandy, George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra and many more.

It was demolished in 1964 to make way for an 80-room motor-inn which was never built. The site remained a parking lot for over 45 years. Today the site houses headquarters offices for an insurance company.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Patsy on March 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm

The Plaza demo photo is hard to view though glad to see this once great theatre is included on CT. I have recently learned that the site is now home to an insurance company’s headquarters. Do hope an historical plaque is placed at the location so nobody will ever forget what was once there for theatre and movie goers. And I sincerely hope that there were some residents of Schenectady who opposed the demolition and fought to keep this theatre standing for future generations. Sadly, someone with pen in hand presented the RKO with its final blow and existence.

Patsy on March 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm

And I wonder who the 2 men are in the photo as they look at the destroyed stage. I hope that at the time they wondered “if” they were doing the right thing! I can anwer that question now in one simple word……NO!

Derrick Paul
Derrick Paul on May 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm

The Plaza may have been owned by the Fabian family “Fabian Securities” but they were not the builders, Shapiro & Sons out of NYC did the actual hands on work, they started and completed all construction aspects of the Schenectady RKO. Recently researching through the Shapiro building record manuals we now know the Plaza “for sure” is listed as having 2500 seats. the State Theater in Schenectady “now demolished” had a bit over 1800 seats, the Schenectady Plaza never did and never had an 1800 seating capacity. Both the Plaza and Palace theaters were built at the same time, the Plaza was scheduled to be completed in 1 year, the Palace in Albany “John Eberson” architect for both theaters was to be completed in 16 months many delays in the Plazas construction went well over 1 year and the cost exceeded way over a million dollars.

Derrick Paul
Derrick Paul on May 27, 2013 at 5:37 pm

I mentioned that I know a musician 85 years old who worked at the Plaza and Proctors, he told me most of the big shows were held at the Plaza because of its stage size and acoustics

Derrick Paul
Derrick Paul on May 28, 2013 at 1:09 am

Details are very hard to find for the Plaza..demolished 40 yeas ago I guess things get would be nice to have lobby photos etc..I even contacted the Schenectady historical society, they don’t have anything? its almost like it never existed?….but I did hear tonight that it had a little pond in the lobby with fish…

Derrick Paul
Derrick Paul on May 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

Its sad when these grand movie palaces close..The Plaza really didn’t have much of a chance, only 33 years not long for the shining castle on the hill “that’s what we called it when we were kids”…no save the theater foundations back then {Or it didn’t seem so… The Plaza had a lot of Classical artist performing there way back when, Sergio Rachmaninoff, New York Philharmonic etc ,this city was never an artistic town …that may have been its demise “Oh well” One more word John Ebersons grand daughter came to our city about 12 years ago looking for photos etc..we don’t have any, really we dont they told her..Maybe I’ll try to contact Philip Rapps living relatives, who knows we may strike gold..Take care.

Derrick Paul
Derrick Paul on May 28, 2013 at 9:59 am

Oh thanks for the link:)

rivest266 on September 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Another grand opening ad uploaded in the photo section for this theatre.

robboehm on March 6, 2014 at 8:01 pm

Interesting that the opening day was August 28, 1931 when only a couple of weeks before on August 8th the anticipated opening was six weeks away.

The name Plaza was chosen, firstly, because of it bordering on Crescent Park and, secondly, because it was in keeping with the Spanish architectural structure of the building.

Jim Talbot
Jim Talbot on July 7, 2022 at 7:55 am

I was there when they tore it down. Found a 35mm documentary of the making of the theater in the projection booth. Donated it to the historical society, but decades later they don’t have it-it was nitrate which is probably the problem. . Anybody know anything?

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