Strand Theatre

79 Washington Street,
Providence, RI 02903

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Showing 1 - 25 of 49 comments

ScottJ794 on April 14, 2023 at 11:09 am

Great info, but the address you list is incorrect. 84 Washington Street would be across the street. The Strand is on the odd side.

tntim on September 21, 2017 at 2:30 pm

According to this article in Encore, the nightclub has undergone a revamp, and has returned the “Strand” name back to the venue. Link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 1, 2015 at 3:05 pm

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Strand Theatre. It’s Card # 550. There is an exterior photo taken in April 1941 showing the huge, long marquee. The Report states the address as 85 Washington Street. Someone wrote next to the theater name “a.k.a. Paramount”. The house in in Good Condition, and does not exhibit MGM product. There were 1,500 seats on the main floor, but no further seating figures. The 1,500 figure for the main floor alone may not be correct.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

In an unusual bit of programming in February 1921, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid was booked simultaneously in five downtown Providence theatres: the Strand, the Emery, the Modern, Fays, and the Rialto. Occasionally some highly anticipated movies might play in two downtown theatres, but never five! It seems to have run only one week, in an era when that was pretty much the norm, with films running a single week downtown, then moving to second run theatres and outlying houses. Each of these theatres accompanied this feature with short subjects or live Vaudeville acts.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 29, 2010 at 4:21 am

The Strand was opened in 1915 as a movie theatre, not as a vaudeville house. In the first years it was against the law to show movies on Sundays in Providence theatres. So live musical events often filled the bill…such as the recital here by the great tenor John McCormack. That would have required dressing rooms for the performers. See the comments posted above on October 11 & 12, 2008.

CDAtri on October 29, 2010 at 3:44 am

Were the early orchestras the only live entertainment in the movie era?

CDAtri on October 29, 2010 at 3:43 am

A quick question for those who worked at the theater in its' various incarnations. I happened to see several disused old dressing rooms, including lighted mirrors, going up a couple of levels, in the backstage area at the Strand when it was operating as a rock club. Given the historical record, can you explain the dressing rooms? Did they run vaudeville acts along with the movies in the early days? Strippers with the dirty movies? Can’t figure it out….

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2010 at 9:20 am

Item about theatre organs in Boxoffice Magazine, December 22, 1956:

“The Sunday Journal devoted the entire front page of the amusement section to a feature story on the removal of the once-famous organs in the Strand, (Loew’s) State, and Majestic. Carrying a picture of Chester McLean, Strand house-manager, and pictures of the relics of the organs, the article stirred up many nostalgic memories for older moviegoers. A resident of nearby Hope Valley, Theo Smith, is buying up the instruments "to save them from the scrap pile.” He repairs the organs, donating them to churches. He is also assembling a complete unit for his home."

Larc on June 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

A 3/14 Wurlitzer Balaban 2 (opus 2112) was installed in 1930 when Paramount-Publix leased the old Strand. The console was destroyed by a hurricane in 1938 as has already been mentioned, but the remainder of the organ was eventually sold to an individual in Providence. It has been owned since 2001 by a known theatre organ enthusiast in Minnesota.

The original Strand organ was a 2/15 Moller (#1939) installed in 1915. It was substantially enlarged to 3/28 in 1917 (new #2267) and again in 1924 with the addition of two ranks of pipes and more percussions (3/30 as new #3990). There’s no indication about the fate of the Moller.

rkq on July 31, 2009 at 11:56 pm

The Strand……The day it closed I was the projectionist on duty. That year….the mayor was trying to clean the city of porn. So if a theater was raided they’d arrest the cashier or manager. Well the licence board came up with a new law….instead of the manager or cashier, they would go after the owner of the business. That same afternoon the law was passed the owner came in told me to turn the film off…the audiance got their money back and told to leave… and that was the end of the Strand showing films. The last few years of its life it was actually twined. Under the balcony was walled in making 2 small auditoriums, the balcony the stage and stage fittings were left all intact, I actually went back stage once and awhile turning the lights up exploring. When it was twinned they left the original equipment in the booth upstairs, they figured it would be to much trouble to move down. Another interesting story…when the theater was a single, they decided to motorize the main curtain. Well the stage hand union told them… no you need a union stagehand to open and close the curtain for each show. Well that was the day the curtain opened……and never closed again.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 12, 2008 at 5:40 am

Those early live concerts on Sunday were put into the theatre (and other Providence theatres) because in Providence at the time, blue laws made it illegal to have stage shows, plays, and movies on Sunday. Live musical events were exempt from the regulation.

spectrum on October 11, 2008 at 9:56 pm

THS’s Marquee magazine for 4th quarter 2005 describes the Strand constructed by National Realty Company, headed by Rose, Archibald and Charles Silverman, and opening June 12, 2005. Architect was Thomas J. Hill Pierce, organ (installed 1930, later removed) was a Wurlitzer 3/13, style Balaban 2. Originally seating 2,500.

In January 1916 the Strand Theatre Orchestra was formed, followed by the Strand Operatic Concert Company in April 1917. They both provided concerts Sunday afternoons and evenings that drew large houses. That was the only live action on the stage until the rock concerts of the 1980s.

In 1930 Paramount Publix leased the theatre, renovated it, rebuilding the proscenium and lobby. The console for the organ was destroyed in the 1938 hurricane. Paramount gave up its lease in 1934,.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 12, 2007 at 5:55 am

In his book Downcity: Downtown Providence in the 1950s, Carmen Maiocco gives this thumbnail history of the Strand:

“When the Strand Theatre at 85 Washington Street opened in June 1915, it unabashedly advertised itself to the public as a ‘wonderful, big, beautiful place – and the shows presented will be fine always.’ The Strand’s first evening of entertainment included four silent features: The Shooting of Dan McGrew starring Edmund Breese; a comedy entitled The House of a Thousand Relations, and two dramas, The Struggle and Memory Tree. Like most of the other theaters built in downtown Providence in the early 20th century, the Strand was colossal in size, with seats for approximately 2,200 people (that’s eight to ten times larger than the theaters we sit in today at the malls.) In the early days, especially before the advent of television, the Strand didn’t have much trouble filling all those seats. Even in the 1950s and early 1960s – a period in which the Strand’s manager was Stanley Sheen – big blockbuster movies still filled the house; films like Samson and Delilah (1951), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), The Ten Commandments (1957)… By the early 1970s, however, the public’s viewing habits had changed; big crowds just weren’t coming downtown to see movies anymore. The last legitimate film shown at the Strand was in March 1973; a comedy entitled Shamus starring Burt Reynolds and Dyan Cannon. For a while after that the Strand ran as an X-rated movie house, but that didn’t last too long. In 1978, the Strand Theater closed. Since then the building has been renovated, and in recent years the Strand has become a hot spot for the young kids, mostly by showcasing up-and-comoing, local rock music bands.”

miked on April 27, 2007 at 1:08 am

The Strand is now home to Roxy and Lupo’s. Roxy nights still feature a big screen on stage with realtime video effects. It has been semi restored and features many vip booths now. Lupo’s is home to the biggest nightclub live music venue in Rhode Island.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 29, 2006 at 2:23 am

Architecturally speaking the Majestic, which was totally gutted by Trinity Rep, suffered a much worse fate than the Strand. The Strand interior remains virtually intact.

charlessilverman on August 28, 2006 at 9:17 pm

We had a pass to the Strand in the 1960s when it was on its last legs as a first run movie theatre and so I saw quite a few movies there with my Dad. It was a beautiful theatre with an amazing interior, much larger and more interesting than the smaller Majestic Theatre up the street. As a young child I remember going to a gala re-opening after it been rennovated in the early 60s after a fire had shut it down for a while. There’s a story that one of the original owners, Archibald Silverman, placed three portraits in the lobby: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and himself.

During the time that the Strand devolved a porn theatre, and eventually closed as a movie theatre altogether, with just offfice rental space remaining for quite a while. The Majestic Theatre was taken over by Trinity Repertory Company and the Loew’s State Theatre, now the Providence Center for the Performing Arts, was declared a national landmark. I always wondered why the Strand’s fate had to be so different.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on August 13, 2006 at 10:24 am

Mr. DeLuca is being too modest! He did not “tag along” on the THSA tour in Providence on June 29— he was invited to serve (and very ably, too) as a local guide/historian. The tour began with a visit to the Zeiterion Th. in New Bedford. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day; and I know that there were many who were surprised to find so much detail intact inside the Strand/Diesel. We thank Gerry DeLuca for helping to make our day in Providence a success.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2006 at 10:31 am

The THSA tour in Providence allowed me to tag along yesterday. There were three busloads of about 140 who saw Veterans' Memorial Auditorium, the Majestic (Trinity Rep), Strand, PPAC (Loew’s State), Columbus, Avon, Stadium in Woonsocket. The Strand (Diesel) was a surprise to me, even as a local, since I had not been able to see it for several decades. The entire interior is virtually intact: proscenium, balcony with seats, projection booth (covered over) stairwells, many decorative details, other decorations. Sure, there is painting over, and leveled orchestra floor, but that place could easily be returned to its former beauty with a few million dollars, which, of course, would never happen. But I was glad to see so much remains and was reminded of the many good times there.

cbstowe on October 28, 2005 at 8:35 am

I recently bought a Lobby Couch reputed to be from the Strand in Providence. Does anybody have any pictures which might confirm ?

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 28, 2005 at 6:50 am

An ad in the 1936 commemorative book Tercentenary, Providence and Rhode Island by four downtown Providence theatres, listed theatre names and managers:


Bernard M. Fay, Manager
Edward A. Zorn, Manager
Howard C. Burkhardt, Manager
Edward R. Reed Manager

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2005 at 3:05 pm

And a view from 1919 or so. Note the two vertical marquees, one on Washington Street, the other on Union Street. No horizontal marquee appears yet.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2005 at 8:17 am

And a view of the old screen from the balcony as the seats are about to be removed in 1978.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 23, 2005 at 6:40 am

Here is a 1930 photo of the Strand when it was called the Paramount Theatre.