Theatres

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The Columbus Theatre will be closing after 92 years

With the official closing of the Columbus Theatre on Broadway on June 9, one can hear the sad sighs of “ah, yet another theatre closes.” Indeed, how many theatres in Providence have closed in the last 50 or 100 years?

Over the century, Providence theatres have housed vaudeville productions, silent screen films, talking pictures or ‘talkies’, theatrical productions, movies, operas, musicals, live entertainment, concerts, live music, Broadway shows, and more.

Since 1928, only a few theatres in Providence have retained their original name and location. Others have been renamed. Still more have closed. Here’s a sampling:

The Columbus Theatre, at 270 Broadway, opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and silent film theatre leased by the RKO Albee Theater. In 1929, it was renamed the Uptown Theatre. After years of low attendance, new management in 1962 renovated the building and returned its original name; before closing in 2009, they showed second-run movies and adult films. New ownership in 2012 showcased a variety of entertainment including live performances. The Columbus Theatre will close on June 6, 2024.

The Strand Ballroom & Theatre, at 79 Washington Street, opened in 1915 as a vaudeville theatre. In 1930 it became the Paramount Theatre showing talking pictures in the 2,100-seat auditorium. In 1934 it reverted to its original name. With declining cinema attendance, it shifted to showing adult films. In the late 1970s, the theatre was renovated into mixed-use commercial space. In 1993, the auditorium reopened and operated as a live music hall. After it closed in 1997, the city considered turning the building into a parking lot. Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel was opened as a night club in the building in 2003 hosting prominent bands until 2016. After a $1 million renovation project by new owners, the Strand Ballroom & Theatre reopened in 2017 as a concert hall.

The Loew’s State Theatre at 226 Weybosset Street, built in 1928 on the site of the Gaiety Theatre, operated as Loew’s, Palace Theatre and Ocean State Theatre until 1971. In the late 1970s, it was restored to its original Beaux Arts style and became the Providence Performing Arts Center.  

 

19 – theatres in Providence in 1924

14 – theatres in Providence in 1970      

10 – theatres (not including college/university theatres) in Providence in 2024

$0.05 – cost of a movie in the 1930s

$13.50 – general admission at Avon Cinema in 2024

800 – seating capacity at Trinity Repertory Theatre in 2024

425 – seating capacity at Providence Place IMAX Theatre in 2024

Sources:

Providence Directory and RI Business Directory, 1924, 1930, 1970, 1990

Providence, PostCard History Series by Louis McGowan and Daniel Brown, 2006

An Album of RI History, 1636-1986 by Patrick T. Conley, 1992

Columbus Theatre – Wikipedia

Strand Theatre – Wikipedia

Nini Stoddard is a proud Providence resident. After living abroad as the child of a US diplomat, she returned to the United States to attend college. She lived in Connecticut and enjoyed working as a librarian, as a director of a regional non-profit, and as a prospect researcher. Nini moved to Providence in 2006 to work at Brown University as a senior prospect researcher. Now retired, she loves local history and volunteering.