Public Theatre

31 Maple Street,
Lewiston, ME 04240

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Public Theatre, Lewiston (Official)

Additional Info

Functions: Live Performances

Previous Names: Ritz Theatre

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 207.782.3200
Manager: 207.782.3200

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Public Theatre

The 800-seat Ritz Theatre opened January 31, 1940. It was renovated around 1991 and opened as the Public Theatre in October of 1992.

Contributed by Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

rivest266 on January 31, 2010 at 11:11 am

This opened on January 30th, 1940 as the Ritz.
you can load the microfilm in the machine at View link
and remember to rewind it after you are done.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 21, 2015 at 11:19 am

The Theatre Historical Society archive has the MGM Theatre Report for this theater when it was the Ritz. It’s Card # 393. There is an exterior photo dated Feb. 1941. Address is Maple St. Condition is Good. Says it opened in 1939 (close), that is shows MGM films, and has 650 seats.

DavidZornig on December 27, 2017 at 7:19 pm

Older photo as Public Theatre added via Gary Henson. Second floor windows were bricked over at the time. Marks Billiards was upstairs per Joshua Dube. Current street view shows windows reinstalled and canvas awnings have replaced the marquee box.

DavidZornig on December 27, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Undated photo as the Ritz added credit Gary Henson.

rivest266 on May 9, 2022 at 4:36 pm

Grand opening ad posted and the microfilm machine is already loaded. Ritz Theatre openingRitz Theatre opening 30 Jan 1940, Tue Sun-Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

Remember to rewind it after you are done.

50sSNIPES on October 26, 2023 at 4:50 pm

The Ritz opened with Fred MacMurray in “Honeymoon In Bali” and Roland Drew in “Hitler Beast Of Berlin” along with the short “Bill of Rights” and the Merrie Melodies cartoon “Dangerous Dan McFoo”.

Some original information about the Ritz as of 1940 goes as follows: Some original installations include three doors to the main entrance and the ticket booth being located at the left in front of the office that was occupied by first manager Emilio Ouellette of Lewiston. First owners of the Ritz were Leon P. Gorman, Al Cohen, and Irving Cohen, all from Portland. Although the Ritz is not a first-run movie house for the start, it did have some striking features. The red-bricked top features a stunning look over the black glass front of the theater, featuring two ivory bands in the black glass front giving addition relief. The auditorium itself features red and gold draperies and attracts attention by its length, which is 120ft from the projection booth to the screen. There are exits in each side of the auditorium and the walls in color were fibrous compositions in five shades of tan and gray with chromium fixtures on the walls giving indirect lighting. The 800 maroon upholstered deep-slope coil-spring with blue mohair seats featuring enabled arm rests on each seat as of 1940 were placed with 23 in a row. There is also a very unique clock that lights up on the wall as well. Throughout the rest of the 1940s and into the first half of the 1950s, the Ritz screened double features.

When CinemaScope hit the screens in 1954, the Ritz immediately became a first-run movie house when the Ritz ultimately became the first movie house in Lewiston to install CinemaScope in March of that same year. Prior to the Ritz’s installations of CinemaScope, the Empire Theatre was the only (and dominant) first-run movie house in Lewiston.

Throughout time, the capacity of the theater was downgraded to 650 as of the 1970s. In 1974, the Ritz dropped its normal features and switched over to an adult-film policy. However in 1979, the Ritz did briefly returned as a first-run theater but failed miserably on October 31 of that same year. However, its “Rocky II” run did give a hit at the Ritz, but “Alien” and “Superman” did gave poor attendance at the Ritz. This immediately flipped back to adult features. The Ritz closed for a time on March 22, 1984 but reopened on June 5, 1984 under new management, still picking up the same format.

I cannot find info on when the Ritz closed as an adult theater, but the Ritz was renovated in September 1992 and reopened under the Public Theatre a short time later, running performing arts and live performances.

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