SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 14, 2014

Column: The enduring legacy of the Cabot Street Theatre

It’s a time of transition for Beverly’s beloved Cabot Street Theatre Cinema. We don’t yet know the ultimate fate of the historic property, which is currently for sale. But whatever happens, its pivotal place in cultural history of the city is secure.

For nearly a century, area residents have known and loved it. Yet, the theater is more than a place of fond memories. The magnificent structure has played a major role in creating the vibrant cultural life of the city that continues today.

The theater opened in 1920 as the Ware Theatre. It was named after its founders, N. Harris Ware and D. Glover Ware. The brothers already operated the popular Larcom Theatre in Beverly, which opened in 1912 just a few blocks away. The early success of the Larcom suggested there would be a demand for a larger and grander facility. The brothers arranged financing and began construction of an opulent new theater on bustling Cabot Street, with an eye toward serving all of the city’s residents. The theater was built to accommodate both movies and stage performances and was truly multipurpose facility.

From the beginning, the theater was a place for the city to come together. While the luminaries of high society were among its earliest patrons, it was no stuffy institution. It drew a wide audience. The best seats were 30 cents (a price that included 3 cents tax), but a balcony seat could be purchased for as little as 20 cents. Children could attend matinees for as little as 11 cents.

In the early 1920s, America’s love affair with Hollywood was just starting. Ornate movie palaces were being built throughout the U.S. to meet the demand for sophisticated new venues. The Ware, with its elegant frescoes, grand fixtures and golden dome, amply met this need and drew widespread praise.

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