With the entertainment industry having become so vast and widespread, it only makes sense for theaters to have grown with time as well. The history of theaters in America dates back to 1752 with the Lewis Hallam troupe arriving in Williamsburg, Virginia. Since then, this collaborative form of fine art using live performers has grown tremendously, turning into a monumental profit-making part of the entertainment world.
With the development of this industry, the growth of theatres all across the country has been exponential. Grand, beautifully constructed theatres can be found now in nearly every state, giving the audience a complete entertainment package in a wonderful setting.
Here is a list of the top ten theater houses in the USA that never fail to amaze audiences (the list is in no particular order):
This theatre in Wilmington, North Carolina, is one of the oldest theatres in the country and has been in frequent use since 1858. It had a seating capacity of 1000 persons and originally was home to the town government and library as well. In 1909 it was renovated to install an ornate arch and electric stage lights. It has two-storey structure with a hint of Classical Revival and Late Victorian design elements. Today, the legendary Thalian Hall is considered one of the most frequently visited theatres in the country. Its three venues host around 422 events annually, with 80,000 people in attendance.
2)The Saenger Theatre
This New Orleans theatre was built two years before the Great Depression, and cost a staggering $2.5 million at that time. The top ticket price at that time was 65 cents, which included a silent movie and stage play, along with music from the Saenger Grand Orchestra. The iconic theatre had its interior designed by architect Emile Weil, who gave it a feel of an Italian Baroque courtyard. Almost 150 lights were installed in the ceiling of the theater to give it the feel of a night sky. After several renovations, the theater finally reopened its doors in September 2013 and is now equipped with the most advanced technology making it one of the most frequently visited theater in the South.
This magnificent theater in Meridian, Mississippi, was initially opened in the late 1800s and originally hosted vaudeville and minstrel shows, along with silent movies. In 1927, the theatre faced tough competition from contemporary movie theaters and was shut down. It was eventually renovated in 2006 with a $10 million grant for restoration by The Riley Foundation, and was thereafter restored to its original artistic glory along with incorporation of modern elements of stylization. It is now owned by the Mississippi State University – Meridian Campus and has turned into a stunning performing arts center, conference center and a place for educational interaction.
4)Providence Performing Art Center
Located in Rhode Island, the Center originally opened as Loew’s State movie place in 1928 with silent movies being its biggest shows. The interior of the magnificent theater sparkles with gilded, intricate plasterwork, grand crystal chandeliers and columns of imported marble, and can seat 3100 persons at a time. As with the other theatres, the Providence Performing Art Center also faced tough competition from the increased popularity of television and movies. It also sustained considerable damage from two hurricanes and was nearly demolished in the 1970s. But thanks to its architectural prowess and historical importance, it secured a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and was hence kept running. Today, the performing arts center has a full roster of touring Broadway theatricals and other contemporary engagements. It has been ranked as one of the Top Venues in the world by Pollstar.
This Minneapolis theatre was opened in 1916 as a vaudeville house and as a part of Alexander Pantages’s renowned consortium of theatres. The original building was a Beaux-Arts styled complex with a twelve-storey structure, designed by Kees & Colburn. It was then operated by the infamous Greek immigrant who opened 500 theatres, Alexander Pantages. The theater underwent several renovations and was also the first air-conditioned theater in Minnesota. The theater closed down in 1984 and was opened again by the City of Minneapolis in 2002. The interior of the theater has a stained-glass dome and a grand appeal similar to other theaters of its time.
This San Antonio Theater is truly legendary. Built in 1929, it was one of the country’s largest movie theaters for a long time. The interior of the theater is so elaborate that it is still classified as one of the most ornate structures with fancy balconies, detailed tile roofs, columns, arches and beautifully handcrafted plaster ornamentation. This theater also closed down for nearly a decade and was reopened in 1989 as home to the San Antonio Symphony. Its magnificent decorative elements are inspired by Spanish Mission, Mediterranean architectural traditions and Baroque styling. The theater has a famous blue ceiling along with a machine that projects moving clouds, making sure the venue maintains its “mystical village” feel
7)Mabel Tainter Center
This Wisconsin performing arts center was built in memory of the daughter of Andrew and Bertha Tainter, who loved performing arts and passed away at the age of 19. The theater was built in 1889. The Richardsonian Romanesque structure was made with Dunnville sandstone and has strong influences of the grand Victorian Era, in which it was built. The interior has marble staircases and floors, with stained glass windows, extensive walnut and oak woodwork, intricate brass fixtures, hand-stenciled walls and four fireplaces. The original pipe organ was restored via renovation projects, though the actual power source, water has now been replaced with electricity. Theater seating was widened and refurbished to enhance the viewer’s overall experience, making it the ideal mix of historic legacy and modern elements.
8)Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater
Built in 1922 by the industrialist George Eastman, this opulent theater in Rochester New York has always been a prominent performance space in the area. Eastman students have frequently shared the stage with some of the biggest artists of their times, including Leonard Slatkin, Christoph von Dohnanyi and Sir Georg Solti. The huge performance area originally contained 3,352 seats and was designed by McKim, Mead and White. As far as its stylistic elements go, it houses a Maxfield Parrish painting, along with a magnificent 35-foot tall chandelier that weighs 5,000 pounds, reflecting the tastes and elegance of the 1920s. In 2004, the theater’s stage was replaced and its hall acoustics were also greatly improved with add-ons.
Hutchinson, Kansas’s Fox Theater initially opened in 1931 and was designed by the famous architects Carl and Robert Boller. These brothers were specialists when it came to theater design element, and nearly 20 of their masterpieces are included on the National Register of Historic Places. The Fox Theater was restored and reopened in 1999, complete with its signature features still intact. The flashing neon marquee, projecting pilasters, stepped treatments, aluminum and metal-glazed terracotta relief structures, capitals, friezes, cartouches, door moldings and other design elements are all noteworthy features of the grand Fox Theater. Thanks to its classic aesthetics and excellent acoustics, in 2008, the Fox Theater was awarded the Bistonte Historic Preservation Award and was also named one of the 8 Wonders of Reno County.
10)The Grand Opera House
This Macon, Georgia, opera house was originally called the Academy of Music in 1884. The theater has flawless sightlines and wonderful acoustics, courtesy of its architect, W.R. Gunn. Over the course of its history, the theater has opened many shows, including drama, burlesque, musical comedy and vaudeville. The 1908 production of Ben Hur, with live horses and chariots was one of its most iconic moments. For nearly 30 years, the theater was turned into a movie house and was eventually put out of use in 1960s. It was almost torn down to make room for a parking lot when supporters turned up to ensure that the 2,418 seater was preserved. Today, it is managed by Mercer University and is one of the finest examples of early theaters.
These 10 theater houses in the USA have had quite an interesting and long history. Each one of them has told thousands of stories to countless audiences. And nearly all of them suffered through difficult times and changing patron preferences but came out of them and are still in use in all their grandeur and magnificence. Their stylistic elements are reminiscent of a grand and impressive past that has now amalgamated with contemporary influences to create admirable modern pieces of art.