The Victory Theatre, Holyoke MA

The Victory Theatre, located in Holyoke, Massachusetts was originally constructed in 1920 as a movie house and performance space, showcasing both vaudeville and silent films. A pit, located at the front of the stage housed the Victory Symphony Orchestra which played during screenings and performances. One of eight theaters that thrived in the time of silent film and vaudeville, it switched to a solely movie theater in 1931 until its closure in  1979.

Screening MGM releases during its time as a film house, the Victory’s success began to falter in an era where multiplexes were being built and offered far more to the public than single-screen theaters. Located in the heart of an industrial town, as Holyoke’s economy began to fail, so did movie goers ability to spend money on going to the movies. A slow decline in the population as the workforce moved elsewhere for work contributed to the decline of ticket sales, and in 1979 it closed its doors.

There have been multiple attempts to raise funds to restore the 1600-seat theater over the years, and in Sept 2008, the city handed ownership of the massive space to the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts. With plans to renovate it as a performing arts center, they have already procured $17,000,000 of the projected $27,000,000 required for renovation. Work is due to begin on the space in June 2011 with a hope to have the space open again by December, 2012.

Lobby & Walkways:

Walkway at the top of the main stairwell, powder room to direct left.

Landing of the grand stairwell, entry and lobby at the base, stained glass shutters overlook the street.

Grand stairwell, the wood paneling has suffered greatly due to water damage from a leaking roof.

Curved seat on the second floor powder room.

View from the top of the stairwell, small shuttered room overlooking the landing.

Open circular common space with dual stairs to the left leading to the mezzanine, bearing an art nouveau patterning on the ceiling.

Stage:

View from the ground floor of the stage.

Center stage, directly below the very wide overhang of the mezzanine.

View of the stage from the second tier of the mezzanine. Two silk murals have been removed from either side of the stage for preservation and restoration.

The eagle medallion in the center of the proscenium is a nod to the victory in WWI, after which the theatre was named.

Ground Floor:

Ground level at stage left, showing the collapsing ceiling. This side of the theatre has suffered far more water damage than the other, though the seats remain surprisingly intact.

View of the back of the ground level, with the lobby entrance at far right.

View of the furthest back seats, center stage.

A detail of the art nouveau patterning on the ceiling and alongside the stage. Sections of the walls bore hand-painted murals which are currently being documented for professional restoration.

Mezzanine:

The wood paneled multi-tiered mezzanine level; the theatre was originally constructed to seat around 2,000 though this number was reduced by several hundred before the theatre was shuttered. The projection booth can be seen in the far back.

Projector Booth:

Spools of old film remain in the projection booth, though it lies in complete disarray with discarded bulbs and chemicals in rusting cabinets. A small bathroom is located at the far back.

Back Stage:

The floor right behind the stage has suffered the most from the water damage through the roof and is incredibly soft and unstable. Parts of the torn projection screen remain in a lowered position.

Scattered ropes and electrical switches at stage right.

A tarp has been temporarily put over the theatre's skylight, attempting to slow the damage of the elements until the roof can be repaired. This tarp casts a cool blue light over the entire back stage, a stark contrast to the yellow contractor lights in the rest of the space.

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  1. Wow, must have been awesome to explore that place!

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