421 High Street,
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Commodore Theatre - Portsmouth, VA (Official)
Previously operated by: Wilder Theatres
Architects: John J. Zink
Functions: Movies (First Run)
Styles: Streamline Moderne
News About This Theater
The Commodore Theatre was opened on November 14, 1945 with Lee Bowman in “She Couldn’t Say Yes”. It was originally designed to hold 1,008 moviegoers. The theatre lasted for thirty years.
After a 12-year period in which the theatre was largely abandoned, restoration work began in June 1987. The theatre was restored back to the way it looked in 1945, but with a major change to the seating arrangements. Seating was significantly reduced to 188 in the main floor to accommodate dining during feature presentations. 318 seats are still available in the balcony.
The Commodore’s sound system was designed with the help of George Lucas' THX Group at Lucasfilm in California and shows 35 mm film exclusively in Dolby Digital sound. The screen measures 41 feet wide and 21 feet high and there are 9 large JBL speakers mounted in the sound wall behind the screen and 22 surround speakers throughout the auditorium.
The original stage was set up with a fly loft, which allowed live stage shows to be presented along with movies however, it was necessary to remove all of the rigging in order to meet the requirements of the THX Sound Certification.
The auditorium, designed by Baltimore Architect John J. Zink, A.I.A., measures 85 feet wide by 90 feet deep, an almost perfect shape and size for today’s film processes. The design is so good that balcony patrons and main floor patrons are not visible to each other, thus allowing each group to view the screen without distractions. The kitchen occupies the old manager’s office and men’s smoking lounge. The balcony originally had no rest room or concession facilities. These were added so that the patrons sitting in the balcony would not have to walk down the stairs during the show.
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