Kimball Theatre

428 W. Duke of Gloucester Street,
Williamsburg, VA 23185

Unfavorite 4 people favorited this theater

Related Websites

Kimball Theatre (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: RKO

Functions: Live Theatre

Previous Names: RKO Williamsburg Theatre, Williamsburg Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 757.221.2674

Nearby Theaters

News About This Theater

Kimball Theatre

The RKO Williamsburg Theatre was opened on January 12, 1933 with Richard Dix in “The Conquerors”. The RKO was dropped from the name in 1935. Since late-2001 it has been known as the Kimball Theatre.

In 2001, a new 35 seat screening room was added, and allows the theatre to offer films to the community seven days a week, even when live performances are staged in the main 408-seat theatre. It was closed July 7, 2017. It had reopened by March 2020.

Contributed by TC

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

deleted user
[Deleted] on January 23, 2005 at 10:09 pm

The Williamsburg Theatre was built in 1932 with an opening date of January 12, 1933. The Williamsburg was part of the RKO circuit. Seating is shown as 535. The address given is 428 W. Duke of Gloucester St.

teecee on January 24, 2005 at 8:42 am

This link provides the history of the theater.

View link

The Kimball theatre homepage doesn’t talk about the history.

snorwood on February 22, 2005 at 9:56 am

I’m glad that someone finall submitted this theatre.

I worked at the Williamsburg Theatre while in college (late 1990s) and dearly loved the place. It was built as the sister theatre to Radio City Music Hall (they opened on the same week) by John D. Rockefeller as part of his resoration of Colonial Williamsburg. It is located in “Merchants' Square,” a shopping and dining area adjacent to the restored area.

In keeping with the appearance of the colonial area, the exterior of the theatre was rather plain and resembled a house more than a theatre. There is no neon marquee or gaudy sign, but rather a simple poster case and sign featuring the name of the theatre.

The RKO chain preferred small theatre lobbies, as they made the shows appear to be more popular than they otherwise would by forcing a large crowd outside the building. The chandelier in the auditorium (which has since been replaced) was a copy of the ones in Boston’s Symphony Hall. It had to be lowered manually to change its approximately 76 bulbs.

At the time when I worked there, the capacity was 535 seats with a center aisle. The building was renovated around 2000-2001 to accommodate live programs in addition to films. The seating capacity was reduced at that time to approximately 400 in the main auditorium (with two aisles). A 30-seat screening room was added above the lobby (an area formerly occupied by offices) for film exhibition at times when the main theatre was in use for live programming.

The Williamsburg Theatre was one of the first air-conditioned buildings in Virginia and the original air conditioner unit (a Carrier Model 1) remained in use until the time of the renovation.

For the tech-heads, the main projection booth currently contains a pair of Century MSA/2 projectors (originally from the Williamsburg Drive-in, installed in this venue in the 1970s, and rebuilt at the time of the renovation), Kneisley Xenex 2kw lamphouses, and a Dolby CP500 with SRD and Altec speakers. The 30-seat screening room has a pair of Kinoton projectors (one FP-30E 35mm and one FP-38E 16/35) with a CP650, SRD, and JBL speakers. Both houses have new ISCO lenses. The screening room also has video projection capability.

Since the early 1990s, programming at this venue has consisted mostly of art and foreign films, with occasional late run mainstream titles mixed in. We also did midnight shows (mostly for William and Mary students) of older films in the late 1990s, but those seem not to have made a return since the renovation.

lgraham on September 8, 2007 at 5:04 pm

The theatre is owned by the Williamsburg Foundation.

In the spring of 2000, through the generosity of Bill and Gretchen Kimball of Belvedere, Ca., who donated $3.5 million for the project, a year-long restoration and renovation of the theater began. When it was dedicated on September 28, 2001, during the Foundation’s 75th anniversary celebration, the 410-seat theater was renamed The Kimball Theatre. In addition, a new 35-seat screening room, made possible by a gift from the Gladys and Franklin Clark Foundation, allows the theater to offer films to the community seven days a week, even when live performances are staged in the main theater.

The adaptation of the Kimball to house both film and live performance included the construction of an additional building to house the new stage, fly loft, dressing rooms and off-stage operating areas. New performance lighting and stage rigging were added as well. The speakers for the new sound system are artfully concealed below the extended stage apron and behind the acoustically transparent stage valance.

Richmond architects Glave & Holmes were assisted in their work by professional theatre consultants Lawrence L. Graham and Charles I Swift of Atlanta.

sguttag on January 6, 2008 at 1:16 am

Shortly after the Kimball was renovated, it was determined that the PA sound system was not proper for the film performances, with many complaints. A separate film sound system was added with the subwoofers being the only shared channel between PA and film.

The film speakers are flown and are lowered, in addtion to the screen, for film performances. It was important for the theatre to retain is rather period feel so the surround speakers have been mostly concealed. Four reside in the “slots”, four are hidden in the “Tech balconies” and two can be seen as blisters just below the projection ports.

The cinema projection/sound consultants were from Cardinal Sound & Motion Picture Systems from Elkridge, MD.


JackCoursey on February 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Here are 2008 photos of the Kimball Theatre: 1, 2, 3, 4

DavidZornig on July 6, 2015 at 1:13 am

Circa 1964 photo added courtesy of the AmeriCar The Beautiful Facebook page.

wsasser on July 1, 2017 at 10:29 am

Colonial Williamsburg has announced that they will close the Kimball Theatre on July 6, 2017 after two decades of financial struggles. The last time the Theatre was profitable was in 1999. Last year it lost $782,000

hdrs on March 21, 2020 at 11:14 pm

This seems to be open again.

Modulo COVID-19.

50sSNIPES on December 16, 2023 at 6:43 pm

The Williamsburg Theatre started life as the “RKO Williamsburg Theatre” when it opened its doors by the RKO chain on January 12, 1933 with Richard Dix in “The Conquerors” along with a few short subjects. The RKO name was dropped two years later in 1935, and its name was updated to simply “Williamsburg Theatre”.

Throughout most of its life, the Williamsburg Theatre ran first-run features (with a little mix of classic matinees in rare occasions). Unfortunately, this lasted until January 12, 1990 when the Williamsburg Theatre dropped its mainstream fare and began showing mostly art and foreign features (however, first-run films are also added only in rare occasions throughout time). When the late-1990s rolled along, some performing arts and classic movies are presented.

Movies are dropped soon afterward, and in late-2001, it was renamed the Kimball Theatre.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.