The State Theatre in Stoughton, Massachusetts, opened on December 8, 1927. It was built on the site of Atwood’s Market, a local shopping center that was destroyed by a fire earlier that year. The Interstate Theatre Corporation purchased the lot and hired the Boston architecture firm of Funk and Wilcox, who also designed the Strand and Franklin Park Theatres in Boston, to design the theater. John P. Curley, a Boston contractor, constructed the 1,100 seat atmospheric theater for $100,000, or $1.4 million when adjusted for inflation.
The opening day kicked off with a performance by Ed Andrews and his Nautical Garden Orchestra, followed by “Revue Les Arts,” a vaudeville comedy review. The main attraction was a showing of the silent film “Smile, Brother, Smile,” starring Jack Mulhall, Dorothy Mackaill and E.J. Ratcliffe. A newsreel and two other vaudeville acts capped off the festivities. John Kenne, the State’s organist, played the Estey Pipe Organ throughout the day.
By 1940, the theater was renamed the Interstate State Theatre, and had been converted into a talking motion picture house. In addition, the nearby Stoughton High School held class plays and graduations at the State. The theater was modernized in 1970 — the box seats and some of the atmospheric ornamentation in the auditorium were removed and covered with red drapes, and modern seats were installed. The theater then became the Stoughton Cinema.
By the 1990s the theater had been renamed once again and was known as the Stoughton Cinema Pub, a second-run movie house that served beer. The theater closed just six days short of its 80th birthday on December 2, 2007. The final production was a live performance of “A Christmas Carol“ by local theater troupe The Little Theatre of Stoughton, who had been performing at the theater since 1999. According to Mike Harmen, the manager at the time of the theater’s closing, it cost close to $3,000 a month to heat the auditorium in the winter, and it was the cost of utilities that caused the theater to close.
The Friends of the State Theatre (FOST) was formed after the theater closed to restore and reopen the theater as a performing arts center. To that end, they signed a 20-year lease and were awarded non-profit status in February 2013. They have received grants from the city of Stoughton and the state of Massachusetts, and around $700,000 in donations from private donors and businesses. The Friends aimed to raise between $2.5 and $3 million to restore the theater. However, the theater was sold in 2017 and the new owner sued FOST and successfully broke their lease. It is the last “atmospheric theater” left in Massachusetts that has not been repurposed.
Matt Lambros MA Stoughton Oct 30, 2021 Architecture