RKO Proctor's Theatre
116 Market Street,
12 people favorited this theater
Architects: John W. Merrow
Previous Names: Proctor's Palace Theatre, Penthouse Cinema
Opened on Thanksgiving Day - November 25, 1915, Proctor’s Palace Theatre in downtown Newark was one of the rare “double decker” theatres. Designed by architect John W. Merrow, the eight-story complex had a large 2,800-seat theatre at ground level with seating on orchestra & 2 balcony levels and a smaller ‘roof garden’ theatre of about 1,400 seats occupying the top four floors beneath the roof. That gives a total of 4,200 seats in the two auditoriums. The 10-story high facade of the fairly narrow building contained only the 40-foot high lobby of the larger theatre, which had its auditorium behind it, and offices above. A series of murals in the lobbies were by painter William de Leftwich Dodge. There were 35 fire escapes to allow egress from the building.
Very little has been reported about the operation of the upstairs ‘roof garden’ theatre (an early newspaper reviewer stated that “Mr Proctor prefers to keep quiet about the policy of it”. It was apparently seldom used until the summer of 1961, when it was renovated for the presentation of foreign films as the Penthouse Cinema, opening with Ingmar Bergman’s “Secrets of Women” (Though a Glass Darkly).
But the main theatre, with its cavernous two balconies, was always one of Newark’s leaders, first with vaudeville only and eventually, by 1926, taken over by movies exclusively. A Wurlitzer 2 manual, 10 rank organ had been installed. The projection booth was at the rear of the second balcony. When all of F.F. Proctor’s theatres were acquired by Radio Keith Orpheum, it became known as RKO Proctor’s Theatre. By 1931 the seating capacity had been reduced to 2,309. The theatre eventually fell victim to the urban decline of Newark and to RKO’s merger with Stanley-Warner, which operated the nearby and larger Branford Theatre. The new management decided to close Proctor’s Theatre in 1968, and it has been standing more or less derelict ever since.
Hopefully, someone will come to its rescue before it turns into a ruin similar to the ex-RKO Bushwick Theatre in Brooklyn.
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