Majestic Theatre

201 Washington Street,
Providence, RI 02903

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Showing 1 - 25 of 54 comments

rivest266 on June 5, 2024 at 12:48 pm

Grand opening ad posted.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 2, 2023 at 12:04 am

The founder of the architectural firm William R. Walker & Son died in 1905, so the architect of the Majestic Theatre commissioned in 1914 would have been the son, William Howard Walker. The founder’s grandson, William Russell Walker II, was born in 1884 and had undoubtedly joined the family firm by 1914, but I don’t know how much he had to do with this project.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 1, 2015 at 11:57 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Majestic; Card # 547. There is an exterior photo dated May 1941. The Report says the theater is on Washington St., is in Good condition, and has a total of 2,263 seats. It was not showing MGM films.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on December 26, 2011 at 4:28 am

In April 1920 the silent screen vamp Theda Bara (anagram for “Arab Death”) appeared in the live play The Blue Flame at the Majestic Theatre. NEWSPAPER AD

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2011 at 4:07 am

In the October 30, 1961 issue of Boxoffice Magazine, an ad was run showing how many mainstream theatres were showing Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, a subtitled Italian movie. This theatre was one of those in Rhode Island. LINK

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 7, 2011 at 2:49 am

Opening day for Emery’s Majestic as a full-time motion picture venue, March 31, 1923.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 27, 2011 at 2:54 am

Opening day ad for Emery’s Majestic Theatre, April 9, 1917:

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 15, 2011 at 4:45 am

In September 1926, this theatre was part of the eleven-theatre Celebrate Paramount Week.
Newspaper ad.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2010 at 10:02 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, October 25, 1952:

“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” packed them in at the Majestic. It was scheduled to move to the Carlton for an undetermined period."

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2010 at 6:20 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."

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 15, 2010 at 5:33 pm

1970 photo i wrote about above.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on June 15, 2010 at 5:32 pm

What Great theatre Marquee and the two classic Horror films playing.Thanks for that picture.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

The gala premiere of the 1953 The Robe, as reported here in the November 14, 1953 issue of Boxoffice magazine, was complete with 70-piece La Salle Academy band entertaining the crowds trying to get into the theatre. As an eleven-year-old, I went with my parents shortly after the opening of this first movie in CinemaScope at the first RI theatre, the Majestic, to have that presentation capability. Read here:
View link

Roland L.
Roland L. on May 20, 2009 at 5:01 pm

A 1956 view of the Majestic’s entrance.

View link

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 20, 2009 at 9:27 am

Thanks. That’s the theatre which became the R.K.O. Albee, next to Grace Church, and was torn down in the early 1970s.

Roland L.
Roland L. on March 20, 2009 at 7:11 am

Gerry, I don’t know how to get ahold of you but I came across this video which you might find interesting.

Go here, scroll down and click on the Preview 11:26 link. Let the video run and stop it at 00:09 into the movie. Look at the right to see the BF Keith theater from the 1920s.

annex10 on September 21, 2008 at 8:41 pm

I have seen the picture of the interior of the building that has been posted, and I can’t even to begin to imagine how beautiful it must have been. I wish that I could have seen it back in its glory and believe me when I say how much I love hearing people talk about their memories of the building and what it meant to them. I don’t want to sound like I am trying to lessen the importance of what the building was, or how much people loved it. I guess I was just trying to point out the fact that it was slated to be torn down until Trinity bought it (that’s what I have been told anyway). There is also a picture of the interior in really bad shape and I was told that’s what it looked like when we got it. I apologize if that was wrong, but I will still try to get a copy of the picture on here.And of course the best thing would be for it to still be the building that it was, but if it can’t, isn’t it better it still be a working theater than a parking lot or large hotel? There is more of the original building than I think you realize. The dressing rooms are still intact, the original stage floor is still down. The proscenium arch can still be seen in the Chace theater, the balcony rail is still there as is the original grid and many of the ceiling designs. As you said, the lobby with the rotunda is still there. I realize that these small things probably seem like nothing, but they do serve as a small reminder of what it once was. As for my comment about people there being proud of a building with so much history, I know for a fact that there are, myself included. You may find it lame but as I can respect your love for the building, please understand mine as different as it is. I love going to work in that building, and I am proud of that history. The people that made the building what it is are no longer working here and the current artistic director has been making strides to restore the lobbies a little bit. You should also know that we are a non-profit so it’s not like there is a ton of money to make large strides. I know that you will never like Trinity Rep, and I can’t blame you for that but I did want you to know that we are not all ‘barbarians.’ Thanks for the chat.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm

The above comment skirts the issue. The fact that the people at Trinity are hard-working and dedicated does not change the reality that the interior was totally altered and vandalized by them. “Redid” is an appalling euphemism. There is very little of the original except a bit in the lobby rotunda. Everything else is gone forever. I grew up in the fifties and sixties and remember quite vividly what a gorgeous wonder it was. Do you?

Trinity could have created what they did out of any nondescript building in Providence. By comparison, look at PPAC and see how that place was respected; look at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester; look at the beautiful Emerson Majestic in Boston. Our own Majestic deserved as much.

When members of the Theatre Historical Society of America visited Providence, they were very immensely disappointed by what they saw inside. Regarding “they love the fact that they are in a building with so much history,” I find that rather lame since there is no evidence of that history inside any more, nor does anyone there really know or care about that, in my opinion. When I was on that tour, the Trinity Rep person who gave the presentation patronizingly denigrated the history of the Majestic as having become just another second run theatre at the end. That’s not true, and even if it were, the place was still a magnificent edifice whose interior deserved better than what Trinity Rep inflicted on it. Finally, the Majestic was by no means a shambles before Trinity acquired it. It was a fully functional well-maintained movie palace that could no longer compete with suburban mall cinemas.

annex10 on September 21, 2008 at 11:54 am

I have been reading these posts and I would like to point out a couple of things. If Trinity didn’t buy this building, it would be a parking lot right now. Trinity has been able to keep this building running as a theater, which is what it was meant to be. I will try to find the picture, but the interior of the building was in shambles when Trinity bought the place, they were not the ones that destroyed it. They could either spend a lot of money to restore it into a space they couldn’t use or they could make it into something that they could use and keep the building standing and a place where people still come to enjoy shows. Yes, they redid the interior and made it into two spaces, but there is a lot of the original there around the building. And as for the person that says they promote themselves as a great cultural institution, that is because they are. You should all check out their amazing educational programs that have been around for over 40 years allowing students to enjoy live theater. I understand that the building is very different now, but calling Trinity Repertory Company ‘barbarians’ for trying to keep the arts, and not to mention a beautiful building in Providence is unjustified. People that work there are hard working, dedicated people that work so hard for their art and love the fact that they are in a building full of so much history. They are proud that they are able to continue the tradition.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 8, 2008 at 8:09 am

Here is a vintage postcard, circa 1917, of Emery’s Majestic Theatre as it appeared not long after it opened.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 29, 2008 at 5:52 am

In September 1964, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow played in first-run at the Majestic Theatre, day-dating with the Shipyard Drive-In on Allens Avenue near the Cranston city line. The Italian-made film, starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, was very popular.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 25, 2007 at 1:17 pm

To my knowledge there are almost no pictures of the interior as it was. I found just this one. I agree with you about this theatre. Trinity Rep committed a monumental act of cultural and architectural vandalism when they gutted this theatre. I remember the beauty of this place as a child and can never forget or forgive what they did, and yet they promote themselves as a great cultural institution. They are barbarians.

bruceanthony on September 25, 2007 at 11:36 am

I was not impressed with what I saw done to this theatre. I remember I couldn’t leave fast enough after I saw what they did to the Auditoruim. Someone should post before and after pictures to show what a horrific butcher job was done to this theatre. A little more imagination should have been used by Trinity and not destroy an historic structure as the Majestic. Thank god the State was given a magnificent restoration what a stark contrast between the two.brucec

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 12, 2007 at 7:04 am

In his book Downcity: Downtown Providence in the 1950s, Carmen Maiocco gave the following thumbnail history of the Majestic Theatre:

“The story of the Majestic Theater at Washington and Empire Street begins around 1915 when two brothers, Allen and Burton Emery, decided to build the most elegant theater in Providence. The Emerys were already in the entertainment business; they owned vaudeville halls, bowling alleys, and billiard parlors in the downtown. Their creation on upper Washington Street was ostentatiously grand. Shiny marble at every turn; terra cotta reliefs on the walls and ceilings; plush private boxes along the sides, loges running around the front of the balcony; and a seating capacity of 3,000 people. The Emery brothers were proud; so proud they had transcribed in gold letters above the three story high entrance arch – Emery’s Majestic. The letters are still there. On opening night, April 9, 1917, the evening’s fare involved five short live performances, inclusing Amelia Bingham and Company in "Big Moments from Great Plays.” A silent movie was also shown; White Raven starring Ethel Barrymore. Many of the state’s elite were in the audience, including Providence’s mayor Gainer, and Rhode Island’s Governor Beckman. Before long, the great stars of the era were performing on the Majestic’s stage: Vamp Theda Bara, John Philip Sousa’s Band, Anna Pavlova and the Russian Ballet, John Barrymore, Jascha Heifetz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and of course Providence’s own George M. Cohan. In 1923, the Majestic moved away from live performances and became strictly a silent movie house. The first full length silent feature film shown in the theater was called Jazzmania. In 1926, Eddie Fay…purchased the Majestic from the Emerys. Providence audiences were first introduced to talking pictures in 1928 when Fay presented Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer at the Majestic. After Jolson came Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Edward G. Robinson, Erol Flynn, and the popular World War II feature This is the Army. In 1953, when the movie about the birth of Christianity, The Robe, premiered at the Majestic, the theater was packed with dignitaries and bright spotlights swept the sky. [introduction of CinemaScope to Providence. ~GD]

Throughout the 1950s, the manager of the Majestic was named Al Clark, a nephew of Eddie Fay’s. During this period one of the most striking physical aspects of the theater was the gigantic upright sign out in front ovber Washington Street which contained over 2,300 light bulbs and was the home of countless pigeons and sparrows. The sign was replaced in 1959 with a horizontal marquee. In 1956, Eddie Fay sold the Majestic to the giant Warner Brothers Management Company. Warner ran things during the difficult 1960s and finally closed the theater in 1970. Soon thereafter the property was purchased by the Trinity Square Repertory Company, which renovated the building and took up residence there. A generous contributor to the restoration* was the Benjamin B. Lederer family, in whose name the new Lederer Theater was dedicated in 1973. Trinity Rep has been bringing glory to Washington Street and providence ever since."

[*I cannot agree that what was done was in any sense a “restoration”…far from it, since virtually the entire interior was stripped and gutted, leaving next to nothing of its original architectural brilliance. ~GD]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 12, 2007 at 3:10 am

The Majestic Theatre can be seen in this 1956 photo.