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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Palace Theater, (Ocean State Theatre, Performing Arts Center), 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI

Capacity 3800

Before the theater opened as Loew's State in 1928, a smaller movie house, the Gaiety Theater (later known as Conn's City), had been there and was demolished to make way for the new movie palace and business block.

The Gaiety opened on September 14, 1914. The Providence Journal reported the event:
“A most attractive little house is the Gaiety, simple in its interior design, yet having sufficient character to make it seem cosy and homelike. The walls of both balcony and orchestra floors are tinged a warm cream color and the proscenium opening is in gold and white. Tapestry hangings at either side relieve the bareness of the walls. The entire house is built of brick, steel, and cement. (…) The audience broke out in applause as the pianist took his seat and the first picture was flashed on the screen.”
Roger Brett in his book Temples of Illusion remarked:
“The Gaiety had no real stage, but unlike earlier movie houses which had been converted from existing buildings, it was a true theater. While much smaller than the other theaters erected at this time and having only 700 seats, it did boast of a balcony. Built and owned by Ottenburg and Kahan, managed by Tom Soriero, it exhibited movies pure and simple; no vaudeville acts, not even illustrated songs.”
 The movies shown on opening day, September 14, 1914, were The Wrath of the Gods, “6 Reel Masterpiece Which Broke All Records at the Strand Theatre, New York,” and Weights and Measures, “Two-Reel Universal Feature.” The ad said that programs would change three times a week and would be continuous between 10:30 A.M. to 10:30 P.M. Sunday showings of movies and performances of plays were banned at the time.
The Gaiety operated from 1914 to 1927, was called Conn's City Theater when it was demolished for the construction of Loew’s State, now Providence Performing Arts Center. The Gaiety occupied the space where the entrance lobby to PPAC is now located.

Grand Lobby and Staircase with original furnishings and artwork

The newly constructed theater opened on October 6, 1928 as Loew's State. On opening day, the feature film attraction was the "Metro Movietone sound picture" Excess Baggage with William Haines. Also on the program were Movietone and Vitaphone offerings, M.G.M. and Fox news, and Joseph Stoves at the "mighty $100,000 Morton organ."The first person to purchase a ticket was a 14-year-old Providence boy by the name of James Riley, who had waited hours for the honor. Over 14,000 people jammed the building to marvel at the eye-popping opulence. The fans were led to their seats by 50 uniformed ushers, past perches in the lobby holding talking parrots.
1941 Special thanks to Paul Fernandes at

1955 Special thanks to Paul Fernandes at

Special thanks to Paul Fernandes at

After it was called Loew's State and before it became Providence Performing Arts Center, it was the Palace, then the Ocean State.

So the complete name sequence was
Loew's State 1928-1950
Lowe's Theater 1950-1972
Palace Concert Theater 1972-1976
Ocean State Theatre 1978-1982
Providence Performing Arts Center or PPAC, commonly pronounced "P-Pack." 1982-present

"Arthur P. Slater was the State Theater's chief projectionist for 40 years. One of the major attractions of Loew's State was always the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ. On opening night, in 1928, the organ rose dramatically out of the orchestra pit, and was played by Joseph Stover, imported all the way from Paris.
The original 1,500 pipe organ was sold in 1963 to one Patsy Fucci of Waltham, Massachusetts. It had been in the theatre for a good 30-plus years. It was a four-manual Robert-Morton organ that had cost about $125,000 when new in 1928. A Providence Evening Bulletin article of March 16 that year reported manager William Trambukis as saying that Mr. Fucci had carted the organ away over a period of weeks, using big trailers. Some of the pipes were taller than a house. The instrument had only been used occasionally after the advent of sound movies. It had also been seriously damaged in the 1954 hurricane which flooded Loew's. Mr. Fucci was a connoisseur of organs and a post office clerk and would set up the organ in his basement. It would be powered by a motor in his garage.
The 5/21 Wurlitzer organ from the Marbro Theatre in Chicago, fortunately removed in the early 60's before the movie palace was razed, was installed in the Providence Performing Arts Center in 1982 where it is still used today.

The center does keep movies alive with the Bell Atlantic Big Screen Movie Series that periodically shows classic films on the big screen. One can only expect Ethel Merman to walk out from the side stage entrance......The ornate carvings and red clothed walls with the eye catching gold trimmed woodwork are stunning.

In November of 1969 the film Fanny Hill, Rated X, was running at the at Loew's State (now Providence Performing Arts Center).
1973 Palace Concert Theater Special thanks to Paul Fernandes at

For a time in the 1970's this theater was known as the Palace and was doing double-bill repertory programs.


May 10, 1974

Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1977

Loew's State Theater *** (added 1977 - Building - #77000027)
220 Weybosset St., Providence
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering, Event
Architect, builder, or engineer: Rapp & Rapp
Architectural Style: No Style Listed
Area of Significance: Social History, Entertainment/Recreation, Architecture
Period of Significance: 1925-1949
Owner: Private

1981-Once the premier picture palace of Rhode Island, the Loew's State Theatre (later Ocean State and Palace) has been reborn as the Providence Performing Arts Center and features live stage shows and concerts.

Jerry performed here on
1/28/72 Howard Wales (Palace Concert Theater)
10/23/75 Jerry Garcia Band (Palace Concert Theater)
2/26/80 Jerry Garcia Band (Ocean State Theater)
2/9/81 Jerry Garcia Band (Ocean State Theater)
11/15/81 Jerry Garcia Band (Performing Arts Center)

The Grateful Dead never performed here.


  1. Disappointed that you took my images off my site and some of my historical info and NEVER even mentioned my site or a thanks to...We do not steal from each other. We give credit were credit is due.

  2. Hi Paul,
    I apologize for omitting the credit on the photos, definitely not intentional. I've made adjustments here and looking at other venues now.

  3. On 2/9/81, was it Theatre or Theater?

  4. I went to 2 of the Jerry shows here and could never find a decent SBD or even AUD recording of the shows. I recall them being superb!

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