Times Past: When movie theaters peppered Franklin County

  • The Garden Theater in Greenfield around 1982, prior to being converted to cinemas. Contributed photo/Peter Miller

  • A panoramic photo of the Garden Theater in Greenfield, taken around the time the theater opened in 1929. The theater was converted to cinemas in 1982. Contributed photo

  • The Greenfield Theater’s marquee in 1978, when it was still a single-screen theater. “Hooper” starring Burt Reynolds was screening at the time. Contributed photo/Peter Miller

Friday, April 06, 2018

How well do you remember the area movie theaters of years ago?

Greenfield’s first movie theater was the Bijou near the west end of Main Street.

The town also showed movies in Washington Hall on the second floor.

Then, in 1929 the Garden Theater (today Garden Cinemas) opened on Main Street. The Lawer Theater was on Federal Street next to the former Bill’s Restaurant, now the Hangar Pub and Grill. It was the second oldest theater. In 1913 came the Victoria on Chapman Street, famous for its vaudeville acts. In 1968, it was re-named the Showplace Theater.

In Turners Falls was the Shea on Avenue A and the Park-Villa Drive-In on Turnpike Road. Going north was the Greenfield Drive-In on Routes 5 and 10 by old Yetter’s Nursery. The Northfield Town Hall showed movies, along with the Northfield Drive-In off of Route 63. Keene, N.H., was home to the old Colonial Theater and the Keene Drive-In.

In Brattleboro, Vt., was the Paramount Theater on Main Street, the Motel/Drive-In theater on Route 5 on the north end of town, and in later years, a Jerry Lewis cinema.

Going south, there was the Deerfield Drive-In on Routes 5 and 10. Easthampton was home to the Majestic Theater and the Red Rock Drive-In. In Westfield were the Strand and the Sundown Drive-In. And in Northampton, the Calvin Theater and the Academy of Music remain to this day as entertainment and performance venues.

In Amherst, were the Amherst Cinema, and in Ware, The Casino.

Hadley had the Hadley Drive-In, and the Air-Line Drive-In and the Rovoli Theater were in Chicopee. In Holyoke was the Strand, the Victory and the Suffolk. In Springfield and West Springfield were the EM Lowes Riverdale Drive-In, the Round Hill Drive-In, the Capitol, the Arcade, the Bing and the Paramount theaters.

Going west, in Shelburne Falls, movies were shown in the Town Hall upstairs, where today’s Pothole Pictures are show in Memorial Hall. There was also the Mohawk Trail Community Drive-In. North Adams was home to the Mohawk Theater and the Cory Drive-In Theater. In Pittsfield, there were the Capitol, the Palace and the Showplace theaters, and also the Pittsfield Drive-In.

Going east there was an Orange theater downtown and the Pioneer Valley Drive-In (between Orange and Athol on Route 2A), and in downtown Athol was the Capitol and York theaters. Films were shown upstairs in the Town Hall (run by Athol Amusements in 1926). Then there was the Mohawk Drive-In in Gardner.

Despite this laundry list of local theaters, most of them are all gone now, except for a few indoor theaters, including the Garden that was converted into cinemas in 1982, and the Northfield Drive-In.

I worked as projectionist and showed movies in Greenfield, Northfield, Northampton, Turners Falls and Orange from 1963 to 1995, indoors and outdoors — most of the time at the old Victoria or Showplace, until it closed.

Those looking for more information about the different theaters in Franklin County or the movie business can contact me by phone at 828-644-5093.