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State Theatre New Jersey
State Theatre NJ.jpg
Address 15 Livingston Ave
New Brunswick, New Jersey
United States
Coordinates 40°29′36″N 74°26′41″W / 40.493341°N 74.44462°W / 40.493341; -74.44462Coordinates: 40°29′36″N 74°26′41″W / 40.493341°N 74.44462°W / 40.493341; -74.44462
Public transit New Brunswick station
Capacity 1,800
Construction
Opened December 26, 1921
Architect Thomas W. Lamb

State Theatre New Jersey is a nonprofit theater, located in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It has seating for 1,850 people. Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb in 1921, it is one of the oldest theaters in the State of New Jersey.

History

The State Theatre was built in 1921 as Reade's State Theatre by Thomas W. Lamb and managed by Walter Reade for both movies and live performances. It opened with five vaudeville acts and a single matinee screening of the silent western White Oak, starring William S. Hart. Patrons, including first ticket buyer, nine-year-old Victor Levin, paid 20-30 cents per admission.

The theater was placed under the management of Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee II of B.F Keith Theatre chain, which then was the largest vaudeville theater chain in the early 1920s. After the death of Keith, Albee continued the operation and eventually merged with Orpheum, the largest western booking agency to form Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO).

In 1928, The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired KAO as a subsidiary and KAO changed to Radio-Keith-Orpheum; also known as RKO. Within one year, the theater was equipped for sound.

In 1933 the RKO State Theatre underwent major renovations ending with a RKO Art-Deco renovation. With the advent of talking movies, the theater became a popular cinema for first-run movies beginning in 1939.

In the 1950s RKO State Theatre began to host rock ‘n’ roll shows featuring popular artists like The Satins, Chubby Checker, and more. This emerging genre led to yet another renovation of the theater adding acoustic tiles, which helped produce a booming sound.

Revitalization

The State Theatre continued to operate into the 1960s until audiences switched to multiplex cinemas. RKO sold the building to a business that showed adult movies and the structure declined. In 1979 it was purchased by the New Brunswick Development Corporation as part of New Brunswick's revitalization project for $455,000.New Jersey|accessdate=12 June 2017}}</ref>

In 1986, the New Brunswick Cultural Center, led by Chairman Richard B. Sellars, former Chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson acquired the State Theatre from the New Brunswick Development Corporation, and in 1987 began a $3 million renovation. The State Theatre reopened as a performing arts center on April 24, 1988 with a performance by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

In December 2003, with the help of the Middlesex County and Board of County Commissioners, the theater received $3 million for interior restoration. Up to 20 layers of paint were stripped away to determine the original color scheme. The ornamental plaster domed ceiling were repaired, and upgrades were made to the sound and lighting systems.

The theatre re-opened in October 2004 with a performance by comedian Jay Leno. In the summer of 2010, the State Theatre installed a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system costing $1 million provided by Middlesex County.

Today, State Theatre New Jersey continues to flourish as the centerpiece and premier venue for New Brunswick, New Jersey arts community. State Theatre presents a diverse roaster of entertainment, including international orchestras, Broadway, comedy, dance, pop, rock, family events, and more.

In addition to presenting mainstage performances, State Theatre New Jersey hosts over 180 education and community engagement programs reaching 30,000 students, teachers, and families each year, with performances, workshops, artist residencies, sensory-friendly performances, and other activities.

As of July 2020, over six million people have come through the doors of the theater.

Notable events

Artists who have performed at State Theatre New Jersey throughout the years include Ringo Starr, Diana Ross, Harry Connick Jr., David Copperfield, Frankie Valli, Bruce Springsteen, George Carlin, Lewis Black, kd lang, John Leguizamo, Tony Bennett and Aretha Franklin. The State Theatre has also hosted distinguished international orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Munich Symphony Orchestra, the Mariinsky Orchestra, and the BBC Concert Orchestra, among others.

On May 20, 2009, the State Theatre hosted the last performance by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Due to Mary Travers' long illness and continuing decline, the remaining shows that the trio had planned were either canceled, or only featured Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey. Mary Travers died of complications from chemotherapy on September 16, 2009.

On November 14, 2018 the historic State Theatre New Jersey was the focus of the second episode of NJTV's Treasures of New Jersey.

Timeline

  • 1921 Opens on December 26 under the theater management of Walter Reade
  • 1922 State's management is under-taken by B.F Keith Theater chain
  • 1922-1924 Merges with largest western booking agency, Orpheum, and becomes Keith-Albee-Orpheum
  • 1933 Major design changes occur, ending with RKO art deco renovation
  • 1939 RKO letters are added to façade
  • 1939 With the advent of talking movies, the theater becomes a popular cinema for first-run movies
  • 1950s State Theatre begins to host rock ‘n’ roll shows
  • 1960s Growing popularity of television leads to decline in theater audience
  • 1972 Financial turmoil leads RKO to sell the theater to Jeffrey Gerstin and Carl Wohl
  • 1973 Under new ownership, the theater is now an X-Rated theater
  • 1979 New Brunswick Development Corporation acquires property
  • 1983 Johnson & Johnson holds its first ever off-site Shareholders Meeting at State Theatre New Jersey
  • 1986 New Brunswick Cultural Center acquires property from the New Brunswick Development Corporation
  • 1987 Renovation begins
  • 1988 Reopening on April 24
  • 2003 Renovation begins in December
  • 2004 Reopening in October with Jay Leno
  • 2010 Middlesex County provides $1 million for the installation of a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.
  • As of December 2019, over 5.9 million people have come through the doors of the theater.
  • November 14, 2018 State Theatre New Jersey was the focus of the second episode of NJTV's Treasures of New Jersey.
  • As of June 2020, over six million people have come through the doors of the theatre.
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