Providence Theater, a Place for Performing Arts

The Providence Theater, also known as the Providence Performing Arts Center, started operating on October 6, 1928, as Loew’s Movie Palace. The building was designed by a firm led by two brothers from Chicago which is now recognized as one of the best theater architectural firms of that time, George and C.W. Rapp.

The luxurious theater cost a total of two and a half million dollars. No luxury was spared, the plasterwork of the interiors was covered in intricate patterns, the columns were made of solid imported marble and the light fixtures included large crystal chandeliers. The first shows to grace the theater’s stage were a piano concert by Joe Stoves on an expensive Morgan organ and a movie titled “Excess Baggage”. Needless to say, most of the fourteen thousand people who made up the opening day audience were more interested in seeing the theater’s lavish interiors than in watching the shows.

Since its opening in 1928, the theater has undergone many additions, renovations, and overhauls. In 1995, the stagehouse was expanded to accommodate more elaborate shows and performances.  In 1996, the sound system was updated to enhance the viewing experience of the theater-goers. In the early 1970s, the building was almost demolished. Thankfully, through the efforts of locals and historians, the Providence Theater was included in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1998, the building’s Grand Lobby and Arcade were carefully restored to their original 1928 magnificence.

The stage proscenium, the walls, and soffit of the balcony, and the front edge of the theater loge followed suit in 1999. This made up Phase 1 of the Auditorium Restoration project. Phase 2, which saw its conclusion in the year 2000, involved the restoration of the remaining walls and ceilings of the theater. During October of the same year, the Providence Performing Arts Center was re-carpeted and the Providence vertical and full color LED marquee was installed. In 2002, an automated HVAC system was also installed. This greatly improved the patrons’ level of comfort, as did the new elevator. To benefit the well-being of the users of the theater, the basement was cleared of standing groundwater and asbestos. In 2003, the fire prevention and detection systems of the building were made more efficient by the addition of sprinklers and smoke, heat detectors. The networks of electrical wiring were all replaced. Also during 2003, the custom-made chandelier that hangs today in the dome of the theater’s main hall was put in. In 2005, the theater’s seats were replaced, and so was the old Morgan organ. In its place stands a five-manual Mighty Wurlitzer.

Now, equipped with world-class facilities, the Providence Performing Arts Center serves as a venue for the best Broadway shows, plays, concerts, acts and all other types of performances.