PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE LYNN MUSEUM
Beden Hardware at 95 Munroe St. was once Theatre Comique.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
LYNN — With the 89th Academy Awards approaching, The Item is reeling back the history of the theatre in the city.
According to the Lynn Museum’s records, 24 theatres existed in the city between the turn of the century and the 1970s. Director Drew Russo said the last to close the curtain was the E.M. Loew’s Open Air Theater on the Lynnway in 1977.
The drive-up style cinema was opened in July 1937, just four years after the very first of its kind was launched in Camden, N.J.
“The theatre was once the primary source of entertainment — it got our grandparents through the great depression,” Russo said. “We had up to six theatres in the city at one time yet we haven’t had a movie theatre here in 40 years.”
Cinemas began dropping off in the early 1950s. The last freestanding theater closed in 1972. The Capital Theatre, originally called the Central Square Theatre, ran x-rated movies in the last years of its reign. It was located on Union Street near where the Capital Diner sits today.
The Strand Theatre opened at 287 Union St. in 1915 and showed Lynn’s first talking full length movie, “The Lion and the Mouse,” in August of 1928. In 1929, it was transformed into Warner Theater and in 1967, to E.M. Loew’s Theatre until it closed in 1971.
The vacant lot near Cal’s News, the neighborhood hub of lottery ticket sales, was once Olympia. The theatre drew crowds from 1908 to 1952. While touring the country, Helen Keller stopped to speak at Olympia.
Beden Hardware at 95 Munroe St. was once Theatre Comique. The name was changed to The Mark Comique in 1908 and then The New Comique in 1940. It closed in 1943 and was razed in 1946, though remnants of the building’s facade and staging could seen decades later.
One street over was The Gem, Lynn’s only burlesque house, at 133 Oxford St.
Dreamland at 16 Andrew St. was condemned in 1929 and turned into a service station in 1934. The Lynn Auditorium was at 21 Andrew St.
Paramount Theatre at 169 Union St. opened in 1931 and closed in 1964. It shared the iconic design of many cinemas constructed in the 1930s and was nearly identical to Chicago’s Gateway Theatre.
An exhibit at the Lynn Museum showcases a row of seats comparable to what would be found in that era, and a car speaker from the Open Air Theatre that was donated by Jamie Marsh, the city’s community development director.
“We found it in the stage room at the auditorium (at City Hall),” he said. “I initially thought it was some sort of intercom system but it was one of the speakers that you would roll down your window and put on your door for the Open Air Theatre.”
Marsh said he and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy share a vision of making Lynn more of a destination for entertainment. Over the past year, The Lynn Auditorium has hosted about a dozen musicians, drawing in crowds of 2,000 on a regular basis, he said.
But the city was known for more than just its entertainment facilities. Stars have emerged from the city of sin, some collecting up to four Oscars.
Actor Walter Brennan won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor four times; In 1937 for his role in “Come and Get It,” 1939 for “Kentucky,” 1941 for “The Westerner” and 1942 “Sergeant York.”
Another Lynn native, Estelle Parsons, won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. She was also nominated for Best Supporting Role in “Rachel, Rachel” in 1968.
While Telly Savalas was born in Long Island, N.Y., he later moved to Lynn and went to Lynn Public Schools. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1963 for his role in “Birdman of Alcatraz” but sadly, did not win. But he did champion the Cobbett Junior High School spelling bee in 1934. He didn’t receive his award until a 1991 Boston Herald article highlighted the oversight.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.