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James V. Roy | profile | all galleries >> Merrimack Valley Theaters >> Lawrence Theaters >> Theater Row >> The Broadway Theater tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Broadway Theater

The Broadway Theatre in Lawrence, in 1910, was the first theater built in a section that would become known as Theater Row. Situated on Broadway directly opposite Valley Street, its initial address was 104-112 Broadway and then 100, and ultimately 106 Broadway, as other buildings were built on the block. At 1700 seats, it was designed by a local architect, James E. Allen, and built for Louis B. Mayer and his partner, Lawrence businessman Michael W. Morris, by Haverhill contractor John M. Roche, who would also build The Colonial in Haverhill for Mayer the following year. Mayer, prior to heading production at MGM in Hollywood in 1924, had opened his first theater, the Orpheum, in nearby Haverhill in 1907. On the success of that he would soon owned several more theaters in Haverhill and commenced to build the largest theater chain in New England at the time.
A July 22, 1910 article in the Lawrence paper projected costs at about $110,000 to build and designed for vaudeville and silent pictures alike and described the theater as follows. The Theater had a frontage on Broadway of 70 feet with a depth of 126 feet, to the land of the Boston and Maine Railroad. The front and auditorium had a height of 55 feet and 65 feet at the stage. The front of the building was of quarried limestone and limestone brick with polished granite base. Initially, a French Marquee of the latest design studded with 200 incandescent electric lights arched the main entrance and covered the sidewalk while at either side were double width exits.
The 30 foot high, 45 foot wide and 20 foot deep lobby was finished in polished marble and limestone with a floor of Mosaic tiles. With a box office one either side it was illuminated by rims of incandescent light and a huge central chandelier; the auditorium leading directly from it with five swinging doors of heavy plate glass.
The main floor was to have 1030 seats in three sections and broad aisles leading from the rear to the orchestra rail. The dome was 55 feet high over the seats at the rear gradually rising to 65 feet at the front. It was 63 feet wide and 50 feet from the rear wall to the orchestra pit. The balcony sat 625 and was reached by two wide marble staircases at the sides with wrought iron railings with a spacious landing at the top extending to three boxes on either side with 72 more seats.
The proscenium arch was 28 feet high and 34 feet wide, finished in London putty and golden design. The stage was 63 feet from wall to wall and 32 feet deep from footlights to back wall. Beneath the stage was ten fully equipped dressing rooms, musicians' room and storage rooms and the (steam) heating and ventilation system designed from the suggestion of State inspector Ansel J. Cheney and installed by Frank J. Sawyer of Haverhill. Executive offices were on the second floor above the lobby. Completion and opening was planned for Labor Day that year.
According to Scott Eyman in "Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer," it was not an initial success. "The opening was by invitation only, and the mill workers with their dimes got nowhere as the carriage trade swept past them with their invitations. The mill workers got mad and didn't come back, and neither did the carriage trade. One local businessman said that Louis lost $80,000 on the theater. It was one of the few failures he had during this period, which included opening theaters in Lynn, Brockton, Manchester, and Lowell."
From 1913 to ata least as late as 1918 it was licensed to Lawrence's Toomey and DeMara Amusement Co. and eventually purchased by Dr. Alexander L. Siskind's Victoria Amusement Co. By the 1930's it was leased to and operated by the Massachusetts Amusement Corp., a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, along with the Palace and Warner Theaters.
According to the Cinema Treasure site, in the 1940s the MGM Theatre Photograph and Report form stated that it has been showing MGM product for over 10 years and that it had 685 seats on the main floor and 519 in the balcony, totaling 1,204 seats.
In 1959, along with the Warner and Palace it was sold again to a company representing Warner Brothers.
The theater operated until 1964 and was one of the last, aside from the still standing Strand, to be demolished in the Seventies.

CinemaTreasures.org ID: 19768
Artist rendition of the New Broadway Theater
Artist rendition of the New Broadway Theater
The Broadway and Victoria Theaters
The Broadway and Victoria Theaters
Broadway looking North
Broadway looking North
The Broadway
The Broadway
The Broadway in the 1920s
The Broadway in the 1920s
Broadway Theater Playbill
Broadway Theater Playbill
Broadway Theater 1939
Broadway Theater 1939
Auditorium seating in the Broadway Theater
Auditorium seating in the Broadway Theater
The Broadway (rooftop)
The Broadway (rooftop)
All but gone
All but gone