Our first venue visit on 2013’s Conclave Theatre Tour will be to:
432 State Street, Schenectady, N.Y.
OPENED: December 27, 1926
ARCHITECT: Thomas W. Lamb
Frederick Francis Proctor, known today as the Dean of Vaudeville, opened his newest theatre with the film Stranded in Paris. The new theatre cost $1.5 million. Though the theatre had a capacity of 3,000, on the first day there were 7,100 paid admissions for the afternoon and evening shows. Tickets were priced at thirty-five cents for orchestra seats for the afternoon show and fifty cents for the evening show. Opening night audiences thrilled to the $50,000, three-manual Wurlitzer organ. In addition to film showings, Proctors also hosted stage shows. In 1929, Proctor sold his theatre chain to Radio Keith Orpheum (RKO). Al Jolson, Ben Bernie, Red Skelton, Blackstone, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Burns and Allen, and many others appeared at Proctors.
On May 22, 1930, Proctors was the site of the first public demonstration of television. Witnessed by science writers from all over the country, a theatre orchestra was led by the image of a conductor a mile away in a General Electric laboratory. The signal was broadcast on a seven-foot screen.
Like many theatres, the thirties, forties, and fifties were successful but by the seventies, the theatre business was rocky at best. In 1970, the city of Schenectady took over when the theatre defaulted on its taxes and planned to demolish the theatre. On June 27, 1977, the community rallied and formed the Arts Center and Theatre of Schenectady (ACTS). Two years later, ACTS was given the deed to the theatre for one dollar. The theatre reopened with a sold out house and the theatre was designated as a State and National Historic Landmark.
The eighties saw a gradual restoration including, in 1984, the dedication of “Goldie,” a 3/18 Mighty Wurlitzer Organ. Constructed in 1931 and originally housed at the Paramount Theatre (Aurora, Illinois), Proctors’ Mighty Wurlitzer has been delighting audiences since it was first installed in 1983. This three-manual, 18-rank organ has 1,400 pipes, a full set of percussion instruments, and a grand piano that can be played from the organ console. Since the installation of “Goldie,” the Hudson-Mohawk Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society (ATOS), has worked closely with the management of Proctors and provides the services of the organists who perform organ concerts there. Hudson-Mohawk ATOS members will be joining us as we visit the theater to demonstrate their pride and joy.
Today, the Proctors complex now features the main theater, a 434-seat black box theater known as the G.E. Theatre which is capable of hosting everything from conventions to large format movies, and The Underground at Proctors. The current administration changed their name from “Proctor’s” to “Proctors,” eliminating the apostrophe to reflect that they are now more than just the main theatre. In a “wink” to the punctuation change, the new lobby coffee shop was dubbed “Apostrophe.”
WHY ARE WE SEEING IT ON CONCLAVE?
Proctors is a nationally recognized success story illustrating how a restored theatre acts as a catalyst for downtown resurrection. An excellent example of F.F. Proctor’s theatre empire.
(Portions of this text are courtesy of the Proctors, Schenectady website. )