The Newtown Theatre has been a staple in the Newtown community since its inception in the early 19th century.
An Iconic History
In 1831, the Newtown Theatre, or “Newtown Hall” as it was referred to back then, was the host to town gatherings and served as a non-sectarian church for traveling ministers. By the 1850s, the Newtown Theatre was in full swing with entertainment offerings like concerts and social dances, and was even used for anti-slavery meetings.
In 1906, in the very early days of film, the first movie was shown at the Newtown Theatre, making it the oldest continuously operating movie theater in the United States.
The Newtown Theatre is currently a non-profit organization that is held in a trust and governed by a board of directors to help keep the theatre a central space in town.
Andy Smith, the Executive Director, commonly refers to the Newtown Theatre as a “center of entertainment” that offers a unique and needed “third-place” in society for people to congregate that isn’t home or work. Up until seven years ago, the theatre only showed movies, but today even more programming is provided including monthly comedy shows, two to three concerts a month, classic movies, cult movies, documentaries, and critically acclaimed films. They even offer family friendly events such as a juggling show, magic show, and mad science show. The Newtown Theatre is also home to Newtown Arts Company that performs stage plays and musicals in the iconic theatre.
The 240-seat theatre went through minor renovations over the years, but was in need of some TLC to bring it back to, and arguably even beyond, its former glory. The goal of the theatre renovations was to make the theatre more comfortable, convenient and accessible.
Phase 1 of renovations of the theatre included many adaptations, including new seats on the first floor, a new hardwood floor, new acoustic tiles, painting of the entire auditorium for the first time in over 50 years, a sprinkler system for fire protection, an accessible restroom on the first floor, and a completely rebuilt and larger front porch that includes a wheelchair lift. For the first time in the theatre’s history, they are 100% accessible!
All of these many renovations were completed in only 4 months by Newtown contractor Mershon Builders, who finished a week ahead of schedule. Phase II of the renovations, which are anticipated to be completed in the next couple of years, are slated to include updating the balcony with new floors and seats, and expanding and improving the basement restrooms.
After Phase 1 of Renovations
When the renovations were being completed, it was important to the Newtown Theatre to maintain community involvement and its treasured history. Members of the community came during the renovations and signed the back of the new hardwood floors so underneath the floor are hundreds of signatures of local people. This follows suit of a wooden door to an old electrical panel that has dozens of signatures on it, many from the early 1900s. Additionally, members of the community “adopted” every single one of the new seats in the theatre, which are labeled with the adopters’ names.
Andy Smith views himself as, “a caretaker… I’m just passing through. I want to leave it better than I found it for the next generation,” he says. Which is clear in these recent renovations.
From the beginning, the theatre wanted to maintain its classic historical ambiance. So many of the new features still have the historical look but a fresher feel. For example, the seats were replaced with a similar template but are more comfortable and have cup holders. Some of the historic pieces of the theatre were kept or largely unchanged including the art deco light fixtures, the wainscoting, and the lobby.
Are you ready to experience the newly renovated historic Newtown Theatre? You can find the most up to date entertainment schedule on their website: www.TheNewtownTheatre.com. To keep up with the latest information you can receive their emails and follow them on social media @newtowntheatre. Additionally, the theatre is a popular rental facility for a range of events from kids’ birthday parties, fundraisers, corporate meetings, anniversary parties, the periodic wedding, engagements, etc.
If you are interested in live theater performances, Newtown Arts Company, a 501(c)3 theater company, hosts shows throughout the year at the Newton Theatre. In addition to putting on stellar performances, one mission of Newtown Arts Company is to provide local students pursuing the arts in college with scholarships to help finance their education, so you can be entertained and support local students at the same time!
This season’s performances include:
- The Wedding Singer - April 22-30, 2022
- Steel Magnolias - June 17-26, 2022
- Matilda - July 29-August 7, 2022
- Laughter on the 23rd Floor - October 21-30, 2022
- Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella - December 2-11, 2022
See you soon at the Newtown Theatre!