Royal Theatre

15 Olneyville Square,
Providence, RI 02909

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Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 30, 2021 at 9:41 am

The Royal Theatre first opened on Tuesday, October 27, 1914, per a notice in The Olneyville Times.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 11, 2021 at 3:38 am

I never saw the actual interior of this theatre, since it was shuttered before I was born. I do remember being dropped off by the crosstown city bus from La Salle Academy on the Plainfield Street side of the long-closed theatre to await my Thornton or Hughesdale bus to get to my home in Johnston after school in 1956-1957 and perhaps later. Students from Mount Pleasant High School would also be waiting here to transfer to another bus. Even earlier however, before and after 1952, I remember walking with my mother into the former lobby of the Royal, which was then being used by a fruit and vegetable vendor. I would help her carry her purchases. I also remember the doors to the auditorium. They were on the left, perhaps after two or three steps. Looking back, I wish I had had a camera to photograph that portion of the interior. For some reason this theatre, more than any other lost theatre of Providence, has haunted my memories. Strange.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 10, 2021 at 8:46 am

The collected records of the Royal Theatre, dating from 1914 to about 1935, are available for study purposes at the Brown University Library in Providence.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 8, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Interesting piece reporting on Christmas parties at this theatre and two others in 1922:

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 4, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Lights out in 1919!!!
RESOURCEFUL MANAGER uses headlights from two cars to light theatre.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

The above newspaper article refers to a 1913 opening. Actually the theatre opened a year later on October 26, 1914. 1919 was the fifth aniversary, not the sixth.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on February 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Article in The Providence News, October 24, 1919, on the sixth anniversary of the opening of the Royal Theatre on October 26, 1913.
Lots of background on the theatre is contained here, including the addition to the building that raised seating capacity from 900 to 1500.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

In September 1922 this theatre was part of Rhode Island’s Paramount Week. Click to see the ad in Providence News, September 1, 1922, which contains a list of all participating theatres as well as the films shown that week.


Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on January 17, 2011 at 4:25 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 January 17, 2011 at 4:16 am

This theatre was part of the September 1923 6th Paramount Week. In this advertisement from the (Providence) Evening Tribune, September 1, 1923, we see a fascinating list of Rhode Island area theatres, many long-gone and long-forgoten, or even unheard of, as well as what they were showing during that week. CLICK HERE and move text to see all theatres.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 25, 2010 at 7:28 am

The Royal as foreign film venue???

“The Royal at Olneyville, R.I. has been reopened after a long shutdown. Foreign films will be shown on Saturday and Sunday of each week, with the house remaining dark the rest of the time."
—-iten in Boxoffice magazine, November 11, 1939

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 16, 2010 at 5:45 am

Item in Boxoffice magazine, August 22, 1953.

“Peter R. Nelson, one of the best-known and well-loved showmen in the state, recently died at the age of 76. Nelson was at various times owner of the old Auburn Theatre and the Park in Cranston. At one time he also was associated in the operation of the old Bijou in Providence and the Royal in Olneyville. Entering the theatre business in 1920, he operated the Auburn for three years before selling his interests to the Park Theatre Corp., of which he remained a partner until 1936 During the period from 1933 to 1936 he operated the Park. For more than 30 years he also operated a store in the Park Theatre building, retiring in 1951 because of his health.”

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm

From Boxoffice magazine, February 16, 1935:
“Royal Theatre, Olneyville, R.I., is now being operated on Sundays only. House belongs to E.M. Loew.”

[Sounds like it was the death-knell for this place.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 14, 2010 at 5:39 am

Article in Boxoffice Magazine, March 26, 1955:


PROVIDENCE – The 1500 seat Royal Theatre in the Olneyville district is (slated) to be razed or remodeled into a (supermarket).

Long a landmark, the Royal (has been) inoperative for the past few years though it was rumored the popular neighborhood house would be refurbished and opened by a Boston syndicate. (The)official transfer of the the property was recorded by a local real estate brokerage firm.

The Royal was built in 1914 by Charles Tupper and Earl C. Whelden, who operated it until 1926 when it was leased to Regional Chain Theatres of New England…

For a time the lease was by the D&R Amusement Co, with which the late A.A. Spitz was associated, passing (on) to Boston interests in 1933. Not long after that the lease was acquired by E. M. Loew interests.

Because of its strategic location in the most thickly populated section of the (area), the Royal in its palmier days, when (silent?) movies were in vogue, rarely boasted an empty seat during evening performance. Frequently special stage shows were presented, usually over weekends or for a mid-week evening, in which local talents were given an opportunity to give vent to entertainment ambitions.

The decline of the textile industry in the Olneyville section, and the subsequent removal of many mill-employed families to other sections eventually caused a decline in revenue, and the Royal went from a (seven)-day a week house to a weekend policy (and) finally complete darkness.

While the new owners of the block (housing) the Royal state that the purchase was for investment purposes, it was reported on good authority that among interested tenants is a prominent supermarket operator.

[My note: the Royal continued unoccupied for a several years after this piece. Its lobby was used as a seasonal fruit and vegetable store. When I came home from high school by bus, I used to wait for a bus connection on the Plainfield Street side of the still standing though closed theatre building. The building was razed well after 1956 or later. I don’t know exactly when. A gas station was eventually built on the spot. It remains today.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on September 7, 2005 at 3:13 am

Other Olneyville Square theatres were the Edisonia/Pastime/Gem, the Dimerina, and the Olympia.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on August 31, 2005 at 8:11 am

In 1955 The Providence Journal reported on the sale of the Royal:

June 26:
Royal Theater’s Sale is Closed
…the long-vacant Royal Theater…changed hands for an indicated price of $75,000. First announcement of the signing of the sales agreement of this transaction were made on February 26. Transfer of the property, from Mr. and Mrs. Earl C. Whelden to the Rosehenta Realty Corp., Sigmund J. Rosenblatt, president, was completed last week. Gamwell & Ingraham, Inc., were the brokers.

August 3:
Royal, in Olneyville, to Become Jewelry Shop and Showroom Center
Plans for converting the old Royal Theater, an Olneyville Square landmark, for use by jewelry shops and showrooms were given the green light yesterday by the Providence Zoning Board of Review.

The plans were outlined by Sigmund Rosenblatt, president of Rosehenta Realty Corp., which now owns the building at the junction of Hartford Avenue and Plainfield Street.

Rosenblatt said he plans to install a floor, making the structure a two-story building. The first floor will be used for showrooms and the second for use by jewelry shops, he said.

[it is not clear if that plan came to fruition. I remember in the late 1950s and thereabouts the lobby was used as a fruit market. It’s the only part of the building I ever set foot in. Today the spot is Grasso’s Gulf Service Station.]

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on July 15, 2005 at 3:01 pm

In 1901 singer/actor Nelson Eddy was born in this neighborhood of Olneyville.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 22, 2005 at 12:12 pm

In October of 1928 when the Frank Borzage film Street Angel , with Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, was playing here, the Royal took out an Italian-language ad in the weekly “Eco del Rhode Island” in order to attract local Italians to the film. The silent movie is set in Naples, and Gaynor plays a “street angel,” which was a euphemism for “prostitute.” The Royal stood between two Italian enclaves in Providence: Federal Hill and Silver Lake.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on June 14, 2005 at 4:56 am

The 1948 Providence Journal Almanac has a note on the theatre which says, “Owned by Royal Theatre, Inc. and leased by E.M. Loew’s of Boston; has been operated at infrequent intervals with no possibility of it being opened; seating capacity 1500; Lawson Daniels, manager of the Olympia Theatre, has charge of this theatre for Mr. Loew.”

In fact the theatre had not been open for well over a decade before this notice, judging by the newspaper ads I scoured. The Olympia Theatre referred to was on the other side of Olneyville Square.

Today the spot where the ill-fated Royal once stood is Grasso’s Gulf Service Station.

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on September 4, 2004 at 8:04 pm

I believe the Royal was owned by Theatrical Enterprises, owned by Phillip Smith, founder of General Cinema. In 1934 it’s listed in the Film Daily Yearbook as having 1340 seats.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on April 2, 2004 at 4:55 am

The theatre was built in 1914 by Charles W. Tupper and Earl G. Whelden, who operated it until 1926, when it was leased to Regional Chain Theatres of New England. E.M. Loew’s, which operated Olneyville’s other theatre at the time, the Olympia, acquired the lease in 1933, but by 1934 the theatre closed and remained almost entirely unused for decades. Around 1960 it was put up for sale and was later demolished. I remember when I was in high school that I would sometimes change buses at the stop directly in front of the theatre on my way home. I also remember accompanying my mother to the fruit and vegetable stand in the former lobby of the Royal. For me as a teenager in the 1950s the Royal was always a mysterious and intriguing building…but I never got to see the inside.

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 15, 2004 at 6:23 am

The exact address was 15 Olneyville Square.