Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Victory Theatre, Holyoke, MA

A view of the screen and stage from the mezzanine level.

Originally constructed as a multipurpose theatre, which featured a mix of vaudeville performances and silent films, the Victory Theatre opened its doors in 1919. It received its name from the recent victory in the First World War, and the eagle medallion at the center of the proscenium is a nod to this. The Victory Symphony Orchestra accompanied both the live shows and films from a pit in front of the shallow stage; a pipe organ was used during matinee showings.

Like many such combination spaces, it soon switched to a movie palace format with the decline of vaudeville in America. There are various reports on the seating capacity of the tiered theatre; it would appear that seating capacity around the time of the Second World War was over 2,000, but that by the 1960s, it had been reduced to around 1,700. The Victory showed MGM releases during the era in which each theatre would feature a particular studio's pictures.

Like most movie palaces, however, the Victory was doomed to declining ticket sales as multiplexes with more extensive offerings began to outpace single-screen theatres. Holyoke itself was beginning to fade, factories were closing, and the downtown area was becoming blighted; there were less and less industrial workers paying for tickets at the theatre as the town took a downturn. These two factors led to the closure of the theatre; it showed its last film in 1979.

Many attempts have been made over time to raise the funds needed to stabilize and restore the Victory, beginning shortly after its closure. Until recently, they have been largely unsuccessful. However, the property was recently purchased by the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, a group working to restore the structure. Of the estimated $25 million required to rehabilitate the building, over $17 million has already been secured, and the future of the Victory is very optimistic - plans are in place to reopen the historic movie palace in December 2012.

Here are a few more photos of the current state of the building:

The tiered mezzanine level, featuring Brazilian mahogany panelling.

The projection room, while trashed by scrappers and vandals, still shows signs of its previous life. A Newsweek magazine from the mid-70s was sitting atop one of the projector bases.

A disjointed basement attached to the mens' lounge led to a mens' restroom.

The interior detailing of the theatre is remarkably intact, but there is certainly water damage. Here, some of the plasterwork has collapsed, revealing its wooden skeleton.

The eagle in the center of the proscenium signified the World War One victory that gave the theatre its name.


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Anders said...

Wow those pictures are amazing, I really wanna visit the place!

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Miss Lynette said...

Great space. Amazing what disrepair it can fall into in 30 or 40 years. I am happy they are going to restore it instead of building something new in its place.

King of New York Hacks said...

Love the pic with the Newsweek Big Gov cover...seems like we should take a pic of a few of the current theaters that will soon find the same fate. Great stuff. Cheers !

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I just posted a link to this post at Cinema Treasures -


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http://cinematreasures.org/theater/902/ here is the link finally... sorry about that!!

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Anonymous said...

As a child I watched many a movie in this theater. With the Strand and the Suffolk, these three theaters were within easy reach of we young adults who arrived from surrounding towns via the Holyoke Street Railway buses. Always a feature movie and a 2nd "B" movie (often black and white), a cartoon, and the Movietone news. The show ran continuously, and only the purists would wait until the beginning of the feature movie to take a seat. Most folks just sat down when they got there, watched the end of the movie, then stayed all through the other films to see the beginning 0f the movie that they had already seen the conclusion of! Jim, from South Hadley.

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Anonymous said...

A lot of SPAM! Anyways, the Victory Theatre is being restored. More here: https://mifafestival.org/victory-theatre/

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