Four-Theatres-in-a-Row (Lawrence, MA)


Broadway 1952

The coming of motion pictures changed the nature of entertainment.  Just after the turn of the 20th century new theaters began to spring up, some in converted older buildings, most as new theaters.  At first the silent film program also included vaudeville shows or celebrities like John L. Sullivan or Helen Keller.  At first Toomey & Demara  (Thomas F. Toomey and Napoleon Demara) Amusement Co. owned and operated the Empire, Premier, Colonial, and Broadway (built by Louis B. Mayer) theaters.  Later The Empire Amusement Co., headed by Dr. Alexander l. Siskind, purchased the Empire, Palace, Broadway, and Premier and took a lease on the Colonial.  Dr. Siskind had started his association with the movie industry when he opened the Marquise Theater, one of Lawrence’s earliest cinemas.  His next purchase was the Victoria, which sat opposite the “4 theaters in a row.”   In the 20s the Empire, Palace, and Broadway were leased to Warner Brothers (the Empire would ultimately be called the Warner).

Again changing lifestyles saw the end of the once thriving movie industry.  One after another the buildings were torn down.  The Warner came down in 1976 to make way for a bank parking lot.  Below is a list of Lawrence theaters with alternate names and the date they were built and addresses.

Auditorium Summer 106 1927
Berkland Appleton 25 1909
Broadway Broadway 104-112, 1910-1964
Capitol Common 129 1928-1956
Central Oak 11 (33)? 1940-1975
City Hall Common 200 1848-1920
Colonial Hampshire 12 1904
Cosmopolitan Newbury 17 1916
Empire Lawrence 1 1915
Funny Land Essex 523 1909
Imperial S Broadway 92 1916
Marquise Essex 503 1908
Modern Broadway 98 1921-1959
Opera House Essex 330 1881 Rialto Wintergarden
Palace Broadway 126 1921-1969
Pastime Essex 386 1909
Premier Essex 554 1912-1968 Casino
Rialto Essex 326 1920

Showcase Cinemas
Specialty Essex 175 1916
Star Broadway 479 1913-1966
Strand Broadway 92 1917-1949 Astor49-56
Victoria Broadway 125-127 1910-1946 State 46-52
Warner Lawrence 1 1930-1975 Castro Nickel

14 Responses

  1. Great shot Louise. That photo is likely to be September of 1952. The Broadway is advertising 1952’s “Untamed Frontier” and a Marciano & Walcott fight (they fought September 23, 1952 and not again until May of 53). The Modern is advertising, at the Palace, 1952’s “Greatest Show on Earth.” that coming Wednesday, September 24th.

    • I love this photo. Do you know how I can find out which theatre showed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” around Oct., 1961
      when it came out? I’m writing my memoirs and want to mention this theatre in it. I also frequented the Palace,

      and I[m trying to remember the theatre at a corner across the street from the four theatres. It use to give out dishes with the purchase of admission! Help!

  2. Hi Louise, I have some updates/additions for you that I’ve been able to compile so far.
    1881 Opera House at 326 Essex, until 1919
    1900 Casino Theater at 552 Essex, until 1908
    1900 New Theater at Lawrence & Essex, until 1901
    1902 Castro Theater at Lawrence & Essex, until 1906
    1904 Colonial Theater at 12 Hampshire, until 1933
    1907 Nickel Theater at 1 Lawrence, until 1914
    1908 Marquise Theater at 503 Essex, until 1910
    1909 Berkand at 25 Appleton, until 1910
    1909 Pastime Theater at 386 Essex, until 1913
    1909 Funny Land at 523 Essex, until 1910
    1910 City Hall at Appleton, until 1910
    1910 Broadway Theater at 104-112, 100, and finally 106 Broadway, until ?
    1910 Victoria Theater at 125-127 Broadway, until ?
    1912 Premier Theater at 554 Essex, until ?
    1913 Star Theater at 479 Broadway, until ?
    1915 Empire Theater at 1 Lawrence, until 1929
    1916 Imperial Theater at 92 S. Broadway 92, until 1916 (might be the Strand)
    1916 Specialty Theater at 175 Essex, until 1933
    1916 Cosmopolitan Theater at 17 Newbury, until 1929
    1917 Strand Theater at 92 Broadway, until 195?
    1920 Rialto Theater at 326 Essex, until 1922
    1921 Palace Theater at 126 Broadway, until ?
    1921 Modern Theater at 98 Broadway, until ?
    1923 Winter Garden at 330 Essex, until 1931 (The Rialto?)
    1927 Auditorium at 106 Summer, until 1933
    1928 Capitol Theater 129 at Common, until ?
    1930 Warner Theater at 1 Lawrence, until ?
    1941 Central Theater at 11 Oak, until ?
    195? Astor at 92 Broadway, until ?

    I only checked as far as 1944 so am not sure of the closing of several or the transition of the Strand to the Astor which happened by 1952. The Imperial I beilieve might actually be what turned into the strand and the address might be incorrectly listed at 92 S. Broadway. I am also missing data for 1924-26 so can’t tell if the Rialto coexisted with the Winter Garden. The last enrty I could find for the Rialto though was 1922.

  3. Hi Louise,
    I’ve got a few updates to the list.
    The Broadway operated until 1964
    The Victoria operated until 1946 and then became the State theater at the same address until 1952
    The Palace operated until 1969
    The Star operated until 1966
    The Strand operated until 1949 and became the Astor until 1956
    The Modern operated until 1959
    The Capitol operated until 1956
    The Premier operated until 1968 (probably the longest running theater in Lawrence)
    The Warner until 1975 and the latest entry for the Central is 1975.

    In addition there was a Twilight Theater in 1970 only, at 65 Merrimack St.

    The EM Loews Merrimack Park Drive in on Lowell St. Methuen operated from 1956 until sometime in the 1980s at least.
    The Den Rock Drive In at 350 Winthrop Ave in No. Andover (now the No. Andover Mall) operated from 1956 to 1965
    The Andover Playhouse at 9 Essex St. in Andover operated from 1955 to 1967 (the addition to the Memorial Hall Library is now on that site).

    The Central may have opened again and operated at times later than 75 but I didn’t check the directories later than 77.

    • RE: Andover Playhouse. The Playhouse was in business before 1955. I was born in 1941 and had my first “date” when I was 10. I took a girl named Carol Davis to the movies. She lived on Florence Street and my mother dropped me off at her house and we walked to the theater on Essex Street. So the Playhouse was there and operating in 1951 and I am certain I was in that theater earlier than that date. I loved movies and they changed films 3 times a week plus had a Saturday kids matinee. Sometimes I was in that place 4 times in a week.

  4. A couple of corrections. though the Business directories didn’t show it, the Merrimack Park Drive-In was in opeartion from around 1942 until 1985 and the Andover Playhouse started out as the Colonial Thater in Andover as early as 1914.

    • Do you know of any site I may find productions given. At the Warner Theatre, in 1949. My friend, Fred Fuller, was a solo pianist there, for the, Lowell High School, graduation, playing, Oscar Straus and other classica pieces. He is in bad health and would like to know if his production is still in the archives. Thank you. Giles

  5. […] Four-Theatres-in-a-Row (Lawrence, MA) « Queen City MassachusettsFour-Theatres-in-a-Row (Lawrence, MA). Posted on March 4, 2010 by queencityma. Broadway 1952. The coming of motion pictures changed the nature of … By admin in Uncategorized  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed. […]

  6. I’m wondering if Larry’s Cedar Crest still has that handsome painting of the theaters hanging in the reception area of the restaurant. (Haven’t visited Lawrence in a dozen years.) During the manpower shortage of WWII, the manager of the Modern Theater talked my grandfather into taking up a position there as doorman, which he held until a week before his death at age 82 in 1948. Such nice childhood memories of the Broadway movie strip!

  7. […] Four-theaters-in-a-row became a place of interest in Ripley’s believe-it-or-not.  This entertainment area featuring a […]

    • I have a post card in excellent condition of the theaters. I would like to sell, anyone interested. ?? e/mail add.

  8. Can we discuss the restaurants in the 1940’s? I am searching high and low for one my grandfather owned at the corner of Essex and Broadway, right near a “bank.” His last name is Gagnon. Thank you.

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