Leroy Theatre

66 Broad Street,
Pawtucket, RI 02860

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Additional Info

Architects: John F. O'Malley

Styles: Neo-Classical

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Leroy Theatre, Pawtucket, RI in 1929

Pawtucket’s “Million Dollar Theatre” opened May 1, 1923 to a packed house, with numerous celebrities in attendence. Designed by local architect John F. O'Malley, the theatre featured a mirrored lobby, an electric chandelier with 4,700 bulbs, and the largest Wurlitzer organ in New England. The theatre was named for owner Charles T. Payne’s son, Leroy, who perished in World War I.

With the exception of its soaring terra cotta spire, the Leroy Theatre featured almost no exterior ornamentation. Originally, only the narrow entrance and ticket booth were exposed to the street. In 1966, the adjacent Payne Building was demolished as part of the Goff Avenue widening project, leaving the theatre’s bare side wall and the external truss supporting the balcony exposed.

After 55 continuous years as a movie and concert showplace, the Leroy Theatre was forced to close in 1978 due to fire code violations. Following several fizzled restoration attempts in the early-1980’s and a demolition company citing the project as “too difficult”, the Blackstone Valley Ballet took over the theatre in 1984. This was short-lived, and in 1985, the building was purchased by Albert J. “Albo” Vitali and played host to boxing, wrestling, and rock concerts. Vitali spent nearly a half million dollars renovating the theatre, and it was declared fully restored on December 18, 1986, with Gregg Allman and Dickie Betts of the Allman Brothers the featured act.

A 1987 power failure caused by Twisted Sister’s amplifying equipment was reported in a trade magazine, and the Leroy Theatre could no longer draw big-name rock acts. Even the restoration didn’t last; by 1988, Vitali was petitioning the City of Pawtucket for money to fix up the theatre. Aid did not come, and following a September 28, 1990 benefit concert by Britt Small and Festival, sponsored by the Rhode Island Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club to bring the “Moving Wall” to Rhode Island, the theatre unceremoniously closed for good.

The theatre sat dormant until 1996, when the entire block was acquired by a Boston developer for the construction of a Walgreen’s drugstore. The City’s push for economic development was greater than community efforts to save the theatre; demolition began September 9, 1997 and took six months to complete. Salvage rights to the building were sold to New England Architectural Center, and most of the interior ornamentation presently resides in their Warwick, RI warehouse. Seats were donated to the Shea High School auditorium and to the Sandra Feinstein Gamm Theatre in downtown Pawtucket.

The Leroy Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

Contributed by Michael Pompili

Recent comments (view all 36 comments)

RIROCKS on January 17, 2013 at 12:36 am

Hi, Great stories on the Leroy in Pawtucket. I was a stagehand at the theater from 1977 & 78. I created a website called RI Rocks regarding the venues and music scene that happened there.

I was hoping someone would have a current picture from the outside of the Leroy before it got torn down. The one I have on the website was before my time. Any pictures would be appreciated
Thank you


Matinee77idol on August 30, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Loved the Leroy. Saw my first movie there in 1940 with Humphrey Bogart. Always enjoyed looking at the small movie posters on the outside of the theater going up the block. Frank McIlmail, Rochester, MN

TivFan on January 20, 2014 at 12:51 am

The Leroy can be seen in the 1995 film “American Buffalo”. The theater is closed and there is a FOR SALE sign on the marquee. The theater front can be seen numerous times at: 9:45/15:32/39:43/40:31. It was issued in 2001 on MGM video/dvd.

timothytanner on December 2, 2014 at 6:45 am

The first movie I ever saw there was “Mary Poppins” in the 60s.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on April 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for the Leroy. It’s Card # 535. There is an exterior photo taken April 1941. The Report says the Leroy is in Good condition, is over 15 years old (as of 1941), does not show MGM product, and has 1,400 seats on the main floor, but then does not list the number of balcony seats. Competition was the Strand Th. in Pawtucket. The 1941 population was 75,700.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Interesting web page on Leroy Theatre artifacts. Lots of photos. http://www.rirocks.net/search/leroytheaterartifacts.htm

Greenpoint on March 28, 2016 at 10:12 pm

frank zappa played here 10/23/1977

jim_duprey on January 2, 2017 at 9:43 pm

I remember going to see the Batman Movie at the Leroy in 1966, starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether, Burgess Merideth, Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Alan Napier. And seeing Harry Chapin at a live concert in 1977.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 29, 2021 at 5:50 am

The Pawtucket Times featured a host of articles and images on the opening of the theatre, in the issue of April 28, 1923. They can be found at https://pawtucket.advantage-preservation.com/

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 6, 2022 at 2:46 pm

In her extraordinary autobiography, “Finding Me,” published in 2022, actress Viola Davis, who grew up in next-door Central Falls, mentions going to the Leroy Theatre with her siblings, probably in the 1970’s. She writes: “After that, we took our Easter money to Leroy Theatre to watch a double feature and eat either hot dogs or large bags of M&M’s. Seventy- five cents for a double feature and 35 cents for a big bag of M&M’s.” (Page 74)

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