Assembly Theatre

26 East Avenue,
Burrillville, RI

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 30, 2006 at 3:20 am

The 1949 Film Daily Yearbook gives the seating capacity of the Assembly as 254.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 16, 2005 at 3:26 am

from the Providence Journal, September 28, 1975:

Movie house hassle brings youth ban

Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

BURRILLVILLE – Declaring that “we can’t take it any longer,” the operators of Burrillville’s only movie theater announced Friday night that starting immediately they will refuse to admit any youths into the theater for any film regardless of the rating unless they are accompanied by an adult.

The new policy began Friday when the operators turned away about 100 youngsters who had come to see the PG-rated ‘Towering Inferno.’

“I feel bad for all the good kids,” Mrs. Ann Votolato explained, “But we couldn’t take the hassle from the teenagers year after year. People were complaining they couldn’t see the movie because of the noise. Some kids were coming in drunk with bottles.”

Mrs. Votolato and her husband Mario, who have been operating the town-owned movie theater for 10 years, said the new policy will be in effect for both matinee and evening performances.

“The only exception may be Walt Disney movies,” Mrs. Votolato said, “but we may even pull out the Walt Disney films so we don’t have that problem.”

Until now the movie house has specialized in G and PG-rated films, while showing an R-rated film occasionaly.

“It’s a big step,” Votolato commented. “But it was either this or close the theater. We’ve lost just about all our adult business. Now maybe we can start building up our adult trade again. People didn’t want to come here any more because it was a zoo.”

The theater operator said youths have brought drugs into the theater, have vandalized bathrooms and have also on occasion stolen car batteries and thrown dirt into the gas tanks of cars while people have been patronizing the theater.

After the theater initiated its policy, a large number of youngsters congregated outside the steps of the town hall to complain to council members who were holding their regular monthly meeting.

Several councilmen voiced concern about the policy, saying they wonderered whether it was [fair to those youngsters] who weren’t causing trouble.

A delegation, led by council president Richard J. Hodson, visited the theater owner later in the night. But after the Votolatos explained the problem, they came aways more or less agreeing that the operators had to take some steps.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 12, 2005 at 2:53 pm

When this was the Burrillville Theatre, a revival run of Gone With the Wind began here on Thanksgiving Day in 1969.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 16, 2005 at 2:23 pm

There is a legend has that a ghost haunts the bathrooms in the rear of the theatre building.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 14, 2005 at 10:16 am

Here is a winter scene of the Harrisville Dam with the Assembly Theatre beyond it.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 10, 2005 at 7:14 am

I think I actually saw only one movie here, and that was Thunderball in June, 1966. The place was called the Burrillville Cinema at the time and was being run seasonally, mostly for the young crowd. Another time, in the early 1970s, I drove here (about 35 minutes) hoping to see Two-Lane Blacktop but the show was cancelled because I was the only one who showed up!

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2005 at 12:41 pm

The exact address of the Assembly Theatre/ Burrillville Theatre is 26 East Avenue.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2005 at 12:24 pm

Here is a nice B/W period photo, circa the 1940s, of the Assembly Theatre.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2005 at 11:57 am

The theatre is now being used by the Theater Company of Rhode Island. The current name of the theatre is Assembly Theatre, its original name when built. Oddly, there seems to be no name of the theatre on the building itself.

When Austin T. Levy, the man who had the theatre and other buildings built as a gift for Burrillville, had the Duke of Windsor as his guest in 1944, he showed him his local textile mills, and no doubt the Assembly Theatre and the other buildings. Austin Levy ran as a Republican candidate for R.I. senator in 1950, losing to John O. Pastore. When Levy died in 1951, a memorial was held for him at the Assembly on November 27. In 1953 a memorial stone with bronze plaque was dedicated to him and placed on a small hillside behind the Assembly.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2005 at 10:01 am

These three photos show this attractive and underused theatre in its lovely pastoral setting.
(1) Front and side and lawn
(2) Theatre and waterfall from Freedom Park
(3) Front entrance and columns

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 9, 2005 at 9:34 am

The theatre building on East Avenue near Main Street, known as “The Assembly,” was constructed in 1934 and was one of a group of four buildings built by by local textile-producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Austin T. Levy and given to the town of Burrillville. The buildings were the Jesse H. Smith Memorial Library, “The Assembly” (next to the library), the Ninth District Courthouse, and the town office building.

An article in a newspaper of the time said of “The Assembly”:

“The most modern improvements in lighting, heating, and other equipment, will be featured in ‘The Assembly’ which is to be used for motion picture shows, dramatic productions and town gatherings.

“From the spacious lobby, flanked on each side by cloak rooms, one enters the assembly proper, which has a seating capacity of 354. The floor of the lobby is slate and brick, while that of the assembly is of rubber tile and maple.

“The artificial lighting in this building…is indirect, coming from covers in the umbrella ceiling. Interior walls and ceilings are of sand-finished plaster with a color scheme of green prevailing.

“The large stage will be equipped all modern stage appliances necessary for theatrical productions. A complete and modern stage-lighting system has been installed.

“The latest sound motion picture equipment will be installed shortly as it is planned to have regular performances to aid in the upkeep of the buildings. (…)

“The flagstone-floored porch at the entrance to the lobby has four large columns in Colonial style and in keeping with the architectual style featured in the group buildings.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 4, 2005 at 1:50 pm

Several decades ago the theatre, which is located next to the public library was rented by the late Mario Votolato of Johnston for the purpose of showing films during the warmer months. He also used to own or run over the years the Myrtle, Johnston and Jamestown Theatres in Rhode Island. No doubt this theatre has other history besides Mr. Votolato’s ventures, and I would like to learn of them from any locals who are so acquainted.