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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Majestic Theater- Massachusetts

The Majestic Theater in West Springfield, Massachusetts thrives not through nostalgia, but through adaptation. Once a neighborhood second-run movie house, the Majestic is now one of the best places in western Massachusetts to see live theatre.

Because of the coincidental overlapping of blog subjects, this post will be featured on all three of my blogs this week precisely because it conveniently (for me) dovetails the purposes of discussion of old movies (Another Old Movie Blog), New England history (New England Travels) and theater in New England (Tragedy and Comedy in New England).

At the informative Cinema Treasures site, the Majestic is noted as opening in the 1920s. The ads here are for second-run films in the 1940s when the Majestic continued to be a popular neighborhood movie house. The top ad for “Brewster’s Millions” on a double bill with “Alias Billy the Kid” is from April 1946. Note how though the war has ended, we are still encouraged to buy war bonds.

The ad for “Good Morning Judge” and “Gorilla Man” is from October 1943. Note the “vermillion rose dinnerware for the ladies” at the top. For our past discussion on Depression glass and movie “dish night” please see this post from February 2008.

The third ad features Gary Cooper in “The Westerner”, along with “The Mummy’s Hand” and a “The Adventures of Red Ryder” short. This is from January 1941

The Majestic re-opened as the Paris Cinema in the 1960s showing foreign films, and became the Elm Cinema in the 1980s, but the mid-1990s brought its most drastic, and welcome, change. Danny Eaton, who brought his Theater Project to a new home here in West Springfield, became the founder and artistic director of a re-born Majestic Theater.

Later this month, their production of William Inge’s “Bus Stop” opens.

Nostalgia for the past is a wonderful thing, but without the vibrancy of modern purpose, we are left with little more than an entertaining scrapbook, as fun to look at but as out of date as these movie ads. We’ve seen on this blog how many old-time theaters are demolished. It is pleasing when some can be converted to modern use either as movie theaters or as small businesses.

But when they can be successfully transformed into theaters for stage plays, then the theater building becomes more than a beloved town relic. The production of stage plays involves a lot of people. People working on and off stage, people spending, people volunteering, a community that comes together when people are the engine that drives the product. People have always been the business of show business.

For more on the current season of the Majestic Theater, here is their website.

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