Eastman Theatre

425 E. Main Street,
Rochester, NY 14604

Unfavorite 1 person favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 33 comments

DavidZornig on February 26, 2020 at 8:43 pm

Page 123 of the book “Rochester’s Downtown” by Donovan A. Shilling indicates the address was 425 East Main Street, corner of Gibbs Street. Also that it opened September 4, 1922 Labor Day. June 1964 print ad just added indicates that address as well.

rivest266 on January 21, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Grand opening announcement in photo section.

jefffreeland on February 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Far as I know, the building is still the Eastman Theater. Only the room is named Kodak Hall.

HenrySchmidt on February 4, 2013 at 4:41 pm

No doubt it should, but in the (near?) future our descendants will wonder what “Kodak” was. 8-(

HenrySchmidt on April 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

I was writing of my experience at ESM in the 1959-64 period. I don’t know what goes on there now. And let’s face it: there wasn’t much to “get out” to in Rochester in those years for a college student, unless it was the nearest bar (NY drinking age was 18 back then, for better or worse—-mostly worse). And trust me when I say that being a native is vastly different than being a transient from the big city (I came to the UR by way of NYC). The general public was not wandering around the streets saying “George Eastman committed suicide.” Most of us students knew George Eastman only as a portrait hanging on the wall of the second floor corridor; we were there to learn how to operate a musical instrument, not study the benefactor’s life story, so while we had our musical ears open it was not to listen to whatever historical bits happened to filter down to us . I’m not defending it, but that’s the way things were as I saw them. I’ve learned a few other things in the years since ;–)

Ziggy on April 8, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Just a comment on some of the above posts. First of all, the new box seats don’t look nearly as dreadful as I feared they would, but I hope they don’t look worse when I finally get back to Rochester to see them in person. Second, if George Eastman’s suicide is a well kept secret at the Eastman School, I can only say that it must be that Eastman students don’t get out much. As a native Rochesterian, I can say that the manner in which George Eastman met his demise is well known by anyone in the city who keeps half an ear open.

HenrySchmidt on March 18, 2011 at 6:36 am

I have experienced the same acoustical richness in other theaters: the higher up, the better sound. Here in Allentown, the best seat in the house IMO for hearing the Symphony is the center seat in the last row of the balcony of Symphony Hall (formerly the Lyric Theater, a McElfatrick-designed house). Those balcony seats are located under an acoustical dome. The builders knew what they were doing back in the day. OTOH, any seat under an overhang, as in a mezzanine, is generally not good for sound, as you observe. Your comment about the box seating added to the ET at renovation reminds me that this vestige of European privilege generally did not survive here in the U.S. The oldest concert hall in the country, Philadelphia’s beautiful Academy of Music (1857), designed by Napoleon LeBrun, has only four boxes, two on each side of the stage. And those box seats provide the absolute worst view of the stage! “Go figure,” as they say.

jefffreeland on March 18, 2011 at 5:20 am

Sorry, I didn’t mean to press my point quite so hard.

As an audience member my favorite place to sit was center about half way up the balcony. Even then (with the earlier fish scale detailed shell) whenever the piccolos or trumpets played I could distinctly hear them bounce off the high left wall behind me and into my left ear. I always found it funny that the high priced seats in the mezzanine had the worst sound of all. Although I love the almost domestic intimacy of the space.

HenrySchmidt on March 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm


Well, evidence would be hard to come by at this late date:–) We’ll agree to disagree, but I don’t consider it to be an earth-shaking matter. BTW, Brayer indulges in a bit of speculation in ch. 30 (“My Work is Done”) of the Eastman biography, with documentation. I can’t attest to the thoroughness of her research due to of my ignorance of her sources, but since I’m no longer constrained by the rules of academe I’m willing to take her at her word.

Interesting to have your take, as a performer, on ET acoustics. That is the problem with a hall of that size and configuration. I played there a number of times in orchestra and wind ensemble, and sitting on the stage it was difficult to hear the other performers because a lot of the sound went up into the fly loft (in those days there was no shell, such as there is today, or at best there was a rudimentary one), and a lot of sound was absorbed by the audience bodies and the empty seats ;o} But visually it was a most impressive space. When Mercury Records made their legendary “Living Presence” recordings, on special Ampex 35mm tape machines, in the ET in the 1950s and ‘60s, they took great care with the three-microphone placement, which is why those recordings come off so well even by (or maybe especially by) today’s standards. I understand that the Mercury recording engineers eschewed the kind of electronic gimmicks that have become so commonplace in today’s environment. I have a number of the original LPs as well as some CD reissues, and they sound terrific (esp. the LPs).

jefffreeland on March 17, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Henry, I agree with almost all which you just wrote. But, maintain all you wish, without any evidence, your conjecture is speculation. That’s the only point I was making.

I’m life long Rochestarian, btw. I sang in the renovated theater a couple of weekends ago and the sound, while modestly improved, is still not ideal. (And, Eastman is turning in his grave over the additions of boxes, for the elite, to his theater.)

Gloriously, the new Hatch Recital Hall has world class acoustics and a beautifully matched new Steinway concert grand. It is a exquisitly handsome minimalist space, as well.

HenrySchmidt on March 17, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Jeff, Eastman’s “plan to bring classical music to the people” did NOT “fail,” not even in “small part,” and I didn’t mean to suggest that it had. The Eastman Theatre and the Eastman School of Music stand as testimony to his generosity and foresight, which has continued down through the years thanks to Eastman Kodak. George Eastman generously endowed the School, which for almost 90 years has been producing countless performing musicians, teachers of music, and many other creative practitioners of the art of music. I am one of them, a graduate of the School, classical musician, and college professor of music for many, many years. But the Eastman Theatre, as a showcase for “photoplays” (movies), was not ultimately a success, due to technological and economic factors beyond George Eastman’s control. One might debate, for example, the business acumen, or lack thereof, in erecting a 3,000+seat movie house in a medium-sized city like Rochester! Where were the audiences supposed to come from, and keep coming from, to fill this outsized house to anywhere close to capacity? In fact, the recent renovations of the hall, now known as Kodak Hall, have reduced the number of seats by several hundred, as if to acknowledge that the original plan resulted in an overbuilt house. Consider also that the Theatre had local competition from Loew’s and Paramount, among others, for the movie business.

I did not mean to say or imply that all these were the direct, or indeed the only, reasons for his suicide, but I will maintain that they were contributing factors. Interestingly enough, Eastman’s suicide was one of the best kept secrets at the School. I walked the halls of Eastman for five years as a student, and had long since left Rochester for a career elsewhere, before I learned of it, and then only by reading it in Elizabeth Brayer’s 1996 biography. (The first edition of that work contained a number of editorial howlers, corrected, I hope, in the second, which I have not seen.) In the almost 80 years since Eastman’s death, his vision has been fulfilled many times over.

My sincere apologies for using the word “failure.” Probably “disappointment” would have been a better word choice on my part..

jefffreeland on March 17, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Not trying to be disagreeable here but, the fact that one small part of Eastman’s plan to bring classical music to the people failed was not the cause of his suicide. He had been ill for two years, was in severe pain, could walk only with great effort, and had witnessed his mother’s incapacity by a slow painful death. As he said in his letter “My work is done. Why wait?”.

HenrySchmidt on March 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I attended the University of Rochester and studied at its Eastman School of Music during the period 1959-64. Opened in 1922 “For the enrichment of community life,” as carved into its façade, the Theatre was George Eastman’s gift to the community where he had built his empire and made his fortune. In the pit was an orchestra to accompany the silent films of the era. Many of the orchestra members also taught at the adjoining Eastman School of Music. One of Eastman’s purposes was to train musicians to play in the pit orchestras of the silent movie palaces. George Eastman’s dream lasted exactly ten years; the Eastman Theatre showed its last regularly scheduled motion picture in 1931, having become part of the Paramount-Publix chain. The orchestra was long gone, a victim of the talkies and the Depression. Today, I’m happy to report, the Eastman Theatre has been meticulously restored and tastefully altered (adding stage appurtenances, side box seating areas, and expanding the always inadequate lobby space), and still serves the Rochester community and the Eastman School, as home to the Rochester Philharmonic and concert hall for the School. For current interior and exterior views, see View link Drill through the site and click on the many buttons there and you’ll gain a rather complete idea of the Theatre as it exists today. As for George Eastman, the failure of his dream was evidently more than he could bear; he committed suicide in March 1932, in his mansion on East Avenue (today the home of the International Museum of Photography).

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on March 14, 2011 at 9:05 am

All great Comments on this theatre,Paul, Thanks.

TLSLOEWS on March 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Thanks for the info PaulM.

PaulM on January 23, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I have just joined the site and love that it is designed to preserve the history of theatres. I have been trying to find pictures of many of the local demolished and current theatres as well as possibly blueprints to see what went into building them. I may be close to finding the original blueprints of a couple of demolished theatres. If anyone has any suggestions to where I might find others, I would appreciate it.

The Eastman Theatre recently (the last few years) has gone through a renovation and addition. On the Rochester PBS station, they had a documentary listing the history of the theatre as well as the renovation project and it got me hooked on old theatres and movie palaces.

The seating capacity has been reduced to 2,250 seats with 80 new box seats added. I do remember in the documentary that there were some sound issues regarding orchestra concerts that were recorded there that were also addressed. All with very little change to the original design.

Here is a link to a 360 view of the renovated theatre: View link

And one of several links regarding the renovation: View link

jefffreeland on December 11, 2010 at 12:17 am

There are a series of murals on either side of the theater, 8 total, each representing a type of music. On the left side, if one is facing the stage, are paintings by Ezra Winter titled “Festival,” “Lyric,” “Martial,” and “Sylvan Music.” Ezra also painted the polychrome ceiling. The right wall, done by Barry Faulkner contains “Religious,” “Hunting,” “Pastoral,” and “Dramatic Music.”

citing Rochester Public Library website:
View link

Ziggy on October 14, 2008 at 1:13 pm

I saw an exhibition of these posters about 20 or 30 years ago at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester. If anyone has a chance to go to MOMA and see them I highly recommend it!

According to the story that came with the posters, George Eastman did not like the mass produced garish look of the posters provided by the studios, so he hired Batiste Madalena to hand paint custom designed posters instead. Mr. Madalena stated that one of the challenges was to create posters that were tasteful, yet still bright and bold enough to be read from the passing streetcars.

Ziggy on December 3, 2007 at 1:11 pm

In response to Van, I don’t know if the artists were particularly fond of bagpipes, but the six panels that make up the murals were each meant to symbolize a different type of music. Thus, the panel with St. Cecilia playing a pipe organ symbolized religious music, and the other panels have titles such as “festal music”, and “martial music”. I would imagine that the pipers would be on the panel for martial music. I don’t recall the names for the remaining panels.

kenn on December 3, 2007 at 7:14 am

As I am a Highland bagpiper, I was interested that the murals depict 5 pictures of pipes or bagpipers. Were these artists enamored with these instruments musically or were they just artistically appropriate?

kencmcintyre on December 2, 2007 at 7:34 pm

Here is a photo taken during construction:

kencmcintyre on November 17, 2007 at 6:24 pm

The Eastman is the white building on the left in this early 20s photo:

irvl on January 25, 2007 at 6:58 am

If you’re curious about how a symphony orchestra or wind ensemble sounds in the Eastman Theatre, look for a Mercury CD featuring either the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra or the Eastman Wind Ensemble. These recordings are brilliant. Howard Hanson conducted most of the American music orchestral recordings, and Frederick Fennell conducted the wind ensemble ones.

Patsy on January 25, 2007 at 5:51 am

Lost Memory: Thanks for the photos. I can only imagine how wonderful a Steve Lippia concert would have been in that theatre in December as I saw him in another city. He sounds like Frank Sinatra so his concert was titled………Simply Sinatra. www.stevelippia.com