Academy of Music

274 Main Street,
Northampton, MA 01060

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UFAlien on October 5, 2017 at 4:09 am

I was lucky enough to perform in this theatre back in the spring of 2008 when I was in high school. The Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School I attended used to do their annual spring musical here, and 2008 – my freshman year – was the last year that happened. The theatre was beautiful but I had no idea it was also a cinema. I was only a background player so I spent a lot of time “backstage,” or in the case of this theatre, “under-stage.” It was quite spacious and comfortable and they even had a TV set up down there. The cast and crew would have DVDs playing on it for people to watch when they weren’t on stage.

spectrum on September 8, 2016 at 11:18 pm

Recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette about the upcoming restoration of a historic curtain at the Academy.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm

The Academy of Music’s official web site gives a brief history of the theater, but fails to mention the name of the architect, William C. Brocklesby. Brocklesby (1848-1911) studied architecture in the offices of Richard Upjohn, who was one of the leading American architects of the early 19th century.

Brocklesby later established his own practice in Hartford, Connecticut, and designed many historically significant buildings in New England. His other works in Northampton include the Forbes Library and several buildings on the campus of Smith College.

The Academy of Music, formally opened in May, 1891, is an early example of the Renaissance Revival style which, after the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago in 1893, became the dominant style for public buildings in the United States for almost four decades.

In 1892 the builder of the Academy of Music, Edward H. R. Lyman, donated the building to the City of Northampton, making it the first municipally owned theater in the United States. From 1912 to 1919, the Academy was the home of the Northampton Players, the first municipally financed theater group in the United States.

The Academy of Music is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm

As the Academy, this theater is listed in the 1927 Film Daily Yearbook as having 1000 seats and open 6 days per week.

spectrum on October 12, 2009 at 10:18 pm

A new marquee was dedicated a couple months ago. It’s a reproduction of a 1920s era marque albeit with LED lights. Looks nice, and easy to read! The interior lobby and auditiroium were restored around 1980 and still looks great to this day! They still have live performances and occasional movies.

MPol on December 10, 2008 at 8:30 am

I agree, D. Ryan.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on May 12, 2008 at 10:10 pm

The wonderful new movie documentary, Young @ Heart, about a group of senior citizens from the Northampton area who give great performances of rock music, is worth going out of your way to see. The performance sequence at the end of the movie takes place on the stage of the Academy of Music and includes, in addition to the songs, many shots of the audience and the interior and exterior of this historic theatre.

aarfeld on April 21, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Here is an announcement from their vision statement on their Website:

In January 2007, the Board of Trustees for the Academy of Music unanimously voted to discontinue the nightly showing of first-run films, an action that had been recommended by an independent theater consultant a few years prior. Faced with lower-than-expected revenues from movies and donations during 2006, board members made the difficult decision to halt the films in order to avoid amassing further debt. Live performances, however, would continue unabated at the 800-seat theater. In making its decision, the Board of Trustees pledged to seek public input as to the types of programming community members would like to see in the historic building at 274 Main St. The Board also sought to initiate a discussion about the relationship between the Academy and the City of Northampton, which owns the building, and between the Academy and other community arts organizations.

AlLarkin on February 15, 2007 at 5:50 pm

Believe that the city is kicking in $50,000 as a temporary fix. The local public television station is also involved. I have no doubt that the taxpayers of Northampton and contributors to PBS will see their money put to good use.

shoeshoe14 on January 31, 2007 at 3:18 pm

There was a front page article on the whole deal with the removing of moving pictures from the venue on Friday. Can’t access it online without paying for subscriptions. Basically, they talked about the firing of the 12-full time workers and where the new ED came from and how she got them out of a whole lot of debt, etc. Then it alluded to some bad things and that’s where it cut off (I didn’t want to spend money on a paper) as I was biking through and didn’t want more weight.

AlLarkin on January 17, 2007 at 1:10 pm

Unfortunately, due to financial reasons, this old treasure has suspened operations except for a few previously booked stage shows. The 32 year manager was laid off. He has offered to continue on a volunteer basis. The trustees are trying to prevent converting the building to condos, other uses, or even worse, demolition. Being owned by the city of Northampton it would be unreasonable to expect the taxpayers to foot the bill for a financially losing facility. Hopefully, some creative planning will bring it back to life.

svogel33 on November 9, 2006 at 7:00 pm

A wonderful theater. I was a student at UMass-Amherst from 1983-85 and the first film I saw there was 1984. Check it out when your in Noho.

shoeshoe14 on November 4, 2005 at 9:48 pm

It now seats 800 people, according to an article in the center column of this website this week. View link

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 21, 2005 at 11:10 am

The Academy of Music opened on May 21, 1891 (or possibly May 23 – I have seen both dates). It was designed by William Brocklesby and built by Edward Lyman, local tycoon, who donated it to the town about a year after it opened. So it became a municipal theatre. During the 1940s it was operated by Rifkin Theatres, and in those years it was known locally as “the Academy”.

jph on May 27, 2005 at 5:53 pm

Currently the Academy makes a small poster of what film is playing to hang in the space where the marquee used to be. It’s unfortunate that it’s no longer there, as the small lawn sign can sometimes be difficult to see from the road.

AlLarkin on April 28, 2005 at 4:52 pm

Great theater. Too bad the marquee couldn’t be reconstructed.

rnoyes on December 6, 2004 at 3:47 am

The Academy of Music has just undergone a multi-phase renovation project, with most of the changes being structural — new roof, handicapped access, a new fire alarm system. However, there was one cosmetic casualty: the beautiful neon marquee was removed from the facade sometime around 2003, replaced by a modest kiosk-style sign on the theatre’s lawn. The original marquee still exists, thankfully, though as part of a private collection.

I grew up with this beautiful theatre, and have fond memories of, say, dozing off in a balcony seat during a holiday kid’s matinee stage performance of The Magic Flute. One of my first dates as a young, cultured, man-about-town involved a revival showing of the 1929 Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera, complete with organ accompaniment. I think I was more excited about the film and the theatre than my date. I also remember when La Cage Aux Folles in its first run was held over many weeks at the Academy, though I was too young at the time to actually go see it.

As a UMass student in the early and mid 90s, I frequented the theatre as often as I could, as the Academy would often get pictures that the two mainstream AMC theatres in Hadley wouldn’t pick up. The Academy liked taking chances with indies as much as the Pleasant Street Theatre did, thankfully. Some might find cognitive dissonance in seeing a film like Pulp Fiction in such a beautiful movie house, but that was part of the theatre’s charm to me. I miss it and still try to make a point to catch a show there whenever I’m back in the area.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on October 15, 2004 at 10:15 am

This is one of the loveliest old theatres in New England! And the programming is varied and intelligent. It is the perfect antidote to the grim shoebox cells we increasingly have to watch movies in today.

And, blessedly, Northampton proudly retains so much of its historic charm. It is a wonderful village to walk around in, shop in, dine in, and watch movies in. Check out the restored Calvin for music and stage shows as well.

Donny619 on May 3, 2004 at 5:06 pm

Great place to see a movie! Nice town to go along with it!

William on November 20, 2003 at 4:49 pm

The Academy of Music seated 964 people during the 50’s.