St. George Theatre
Interior of the St. George Theatre
|Address||35 Hyatt Street|
|Location||Staten Island, New York|
|Public transit||St. George Terminal|
The theatre opened on December 4, 1929, and was built for Solomon Brill. The main architect for the theatre was Eugene De Rosa. He was assisted by the "dean of Staten Island architects", James Whitford. The theatre's Spanish and Italian Baroque revival style interior was designed by Nestor Castro. Even though generations of Staten Islanders refer to or remember the St. George as a movie palace, the original 2876 seat structure was planned as part of the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) vaudeville circuit. Only when the theatre was nearly complete in 1929 was a projection booth and spotlight stand contrived by the architects and added to the theatre's interior.
The first movie to be shown at the St. George Theatre was So This Is College which was a 1929 M-G-M production that starred Eddie Nugent, Robert Montgomery and Cliff Edwards. Famous performers such as Al Jolson, Kate Smith and Guy Lombardo performed on the theatre's stage.
Either because or in spite of the theatre's ornate interior—decorative gold plasterwork, stained glass and ironwork—the St. George is noted for near-perfect acoustics. It is not uncommon, to this day, for a performer to stand beneath its six-story proscenium and remark on how beautiful the theatre looks and sounds. It is possible to stand center stage and hold a room-level conversation with someone in the upper balcony, six stories away without raising one's voice.
Fabian Theatres, a movie theatre chain, owned and operated the St. George Theatre as its flagship on Staten Island in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Visitors to the St. George Theatre today who utilize the men's room on the main level are actually in what was once the district office for Fabian Theatres in 1965. In the late 1960s, the Fabian chain was broken up; the theatre was operated by Fabian's former general manager until 1975.
When that organization departed, the theatre was leased to a Staten Island concern, Victoria Theatres. It was the plan of these young entrepreneurs to return the theatre to its roots: live stage shows and concerts integrated with film. For the first time since the 1950s, the St. George stage was used as a presentation stage, and not simply as a base for its massive movie screen. Although Victoria Theatres only operated the St. George for approximately a year—from April 1976 to February 1977, Sly Stone, Chaka Kahn, and Lester Flatt represented the broad diversity of music acts who graced the St. George's stage during that period.
In 1978, the St. George Theatre ended its life as a movie house. Several entrepreneurs tried to revive it as a dinner theater, a nightclub and an antiques showroom but none were successful. Others tried their hands at revival and renovation, but it was finally Rosemary Cappozalo, in league with her daughters, Luanne Sorrrentino and Doreen Cugno who, in 2004, began a not-for-profit organization to save the historic theatre from the wrecking ball.
Since the theatre reopened in June 2004, over 400 events have taken place there. Ringo Starr, Tony Bennett, Judy Collins, k.d. lang, Garrison Keillor, David Cassidy, Davy Jones, Adam Lambert, Carl Palmer, Cyndi Lauper, The B-52's, Don McLean, Art Garfunkel, Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Liza Minnelli, Yes_(band), Kansas_(band), Steve Hackett, Dennis DeYoung, Neil Sedaka, Taylor Hicks, Bret Michaels, Donny Osmond, Diana Ross and the Jonas Brothers have all performed there. Top comics who have appeared include Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin James, Rosie O'Donnell, Colin Quinn, Lily Tomlin, Louis C.K., Joan Rivers, John Pinette, Jim Belushi, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby.
The finale of the 2003 film School of Rock was filmed at the St. George Theatre. Steven Spielberg's NBC television show Smash used the theatre for filming in the 2012 season. In January 2014, the St. George Theatre was part of VH1's concert series "Super Bowl Blitz: Six Nights + Six Concerts". In 2015, the Harbor Lights Theater Company of Staten Island presented Gypsy with Sally Mayes. In September 2016, Sophia Loren's tour "An Evening With Sophia Loren" included the St. George Theatre.
- Saving the Theater, stgeorgetheatre.com
- History, St. George Theatre
- School of Rock, The : About the Production, cinema.com
- "The Smash Report: Episode 13, Or, 'Blue in Beantown'", by Kenneth Jones, Playbill, May 3, 2012
- "VH1's "Super Bowl Blitz: Six Nights + Six Concerts" – Staten Island (Brad Fernquist)", Zimbio, January 30, 2014
- "Tony Nominee Sally Mayes Is Rose, Starting Tonight in Staten Island's Gypsy" by Olivia Clement, Playbill, August 7, 2015
- "Hollywood icon Loren takes to the road on a touring engagement!", NewYorkCityTheatre.com
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