Colonial Theatre

144 Thames Street,
Newport, RI 02840

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

In September 1920, this theatre was part of the celebration of the 3rd annual Paramount Week. CLICK HERE for all participating RI area theatres and the titles of the films shown.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 4, 2010 at 9:28 am

End of the Colonial Theatre in 1940, as reported by Boxoffice magazine in its issue of April 27, 1940:

“E. M. Loew circuit took over operation of the Paramount, Newport, with manager Gerald G. Wagner and his entire staff at the Colonial moving to the Paramount. Colonial, occupied by Loew for the past two years has been sold to Miss Ruth L. Weiss of Boston and is scheduled to be torn down and replaced with a new $45,000 store for J. J. Newberry Co. According to Wagner, the same policy maintained at the Colonial will be continued at the Paramount; dual subsequent run features with added vaudeville on Sundays.”

[Note: the Colonial was not torn down but was converted to retail and became a Newberry store afterward.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 1, 2007 at 5:42 pm

Yes, sure is still there, as an Express store. I used to go there when it was Newberry’s and the interior still had some things, if you looked closely, that suggested a former movie theatre, something evident now only from the outside rear and side.

KJB2012 on September 1, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I grew up in Newport and never heard of the Colonial. Some of the older folks would mention the Paramount, but not the Colonial. So I’m totally surprised that it lasted as a theatre up to 1940! And even more surprised that the building is still there.

NativeForestHiller on July 22, 2007 at 4:44 am

Thank you! I take pride in knowing that its neighbor, Opera House cinemas, is undergoing a restoration at the very least.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 22, 2007 at 4:39 am

The theatre closed in the early 1940s, I believe. It was a Newberry’s (five and dime) store for a long while. It became an Express only a few years ago with the trend toward upscale shops in the area, like the very inappropriate-looking Banana Republic next to the in-restoration Opera House around the corner in Washington Square. After 65 years or more, most Newporters don’t even know there was ever a vaudeville and movie theatre in the building that now houses Express.

NativeForestHiller on July 22, 2007 at 1:52 am

Thanks for posting the photos & bringing this matter to our attention. I don’t consider it a good example of adaptive reuse. When did the theater close, and when did it become Express? :(

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 3, 2005 at 1:31 am

Here is a a photo of a flooded Thames Street after the hurricane that struck on September 21, 1938. The Colonial Theatre can be seen in the distance.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 23, 2005 at 4:12 pm

An ad in the Newport Daily News on April 15, 1940 said that on Sunday, April 21 “the Colonial Theatre, with its entire staff, moves to the new E.M. Loew’s Paramount on Broadway.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 24, 2005 at 1:39 pm

The Colonial opened on February 4, 1911, according to a card-file note at the Newport Historical Society.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 2, 2005 at 10:39 pm

Discovery…this theatre is NOT demolished. The exterior remains intact and in seeming good repair, with gutters and drain pipes extending from the roof area. It seems to have been used for many decades as various retail outlets, including a Newberry’s. Currently, a trendy store called Express occupies the original entrance and foyer area. Although this theatre is right there before your eyes, you need to look for it up and behind the Thames Street retail entrance. It is only a few feet from the rear of the Opera House on Touro Street and just a stone’s throw from the Jane Pickens (Strand). A scenery tower from vaudeville and theatrical days rises from the rear. Early Newport city directories list the street number as 146 rather than 144.

“High class vaudeville and latest motion pictures,” boasts a directory ad.

Here are five photos I took of the exterior.

FOUR with rear of Opera House on right.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on April 28, 2005 at 10:34 am

Listed in Film Daily Yearbook’s 1941 and 1943 as having a seating capacity of 1,200. By the 1950 edition of F.D.Y. it has disappeared from the listings.