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State Theatre, New Brunswick

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Title: State Theatre, New Brunswick  
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State Theatre, New Brunswick

State Theatre
Address 15 Livingston Ave
City New Brunswick, New Jersey
Country US
Architect Thomas W. Lamb
Operated by Mark W. Jones
Capacity 1800
Opened December 26, 1921

The State Theatre is a nonprofit theater, located in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It has seating for 1,800 people.


The State Theatre was built in 1921 as Reade’s State Theatre by Thomas W. Lamb and managed by Walter Reade for both movies and live performances. It opened with five vaudeville acts and a single matinee screening of the silent western, White Oak, starring William S. Hart. Patrons, including first ticket buyer, nine-year-old Victor Levin, paid 20-30 cents per admission.

The theater was placed under the management of Benjamin Franklin Keith and Edward Franklin Albee II of B.F Keith Theatre chain, which then was the largest vaudeville theater chain in the early 1920s. After the death of Keith, Albee continued the operation and eventually merged with Orpheum, the largest western booking agency to form Keith-Albee-Orpheum (KAO).

In 1928, The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) acquired KAO as a subsidiary and KAO changed to Radio-Keith-Orpheum; also known as RKO. Within one year, the theater is equipped for sound.

In 1933 the RKO State Theatre underwent major renovations ending with a RKO Art-Deco renovation. With the advent of talking movies, the theater became a popular cinema for first-run movies beginning in 1939.

In the 1950s RKO State Theatre began to host rock ‘n’ roll shows featuring popular artists like The Satins, Chubby Checker, and more. This emerging genre led to yet another renovation with acoustic tiles, which helped produce a booming sound.


The State Theatre continued to operate into the 1960s until audiences switched to multiplex cinemas. RKO sold the building to a business that showed adult movies and the structure fell into decline. In 1979 it was purchased by the New Brunswick Development Corporation (DevCo) as part of New Brunswick's revitalization project for $455,000.

In 1986, the New Brunswick Cultural Center, led by Chairman Richard B. Sellars acquired the State Theatre from DevCo, and in 1987 and began a $3 million renovation. The State Theatre reopened on April 24, 1988 with a performance by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

In December 2003, the theater began another $3 million renovation to return the theater as closely as possible to its original appearance, additionally updating the sound and lighting systems. The architectural firm of Ford, Farewell, Mills, and Gatch oversaw the cleaning and repair of the terracotta exterior. On the inside, artists from Conrad Schmitt Studios of Milwaukee, a century-old firm specializing in historic restorations, researched several areas of the theater’s interior to determine the original paint colors, decorative trim style and other details of Thomas W. Lamb's interior decoration. Up to 20 layers of paint were stripped away to determine the original color scheme. The theater underwent ornamental plaster repair, decorative painting and replacement of house and lobby lighting, and installation of high tech sound and lighting systems. The outer lobby’s dome ceiling boasted glittering new decorative work and historically accurate lighting fixtures were installed in the lobbies and theater.

The refurbished State Theatre was unveiled in October 2004 at the season’s opening performance by comedian Jay Leno. On May 20, 2009, the State Theatre hosted the last performance by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Due to Mary Travers' long illness and continuing decline, the remaining shows that the trio had planned were either canceled, or only featured Peter Yarrow and Noel "Paul" Stookey. Mary Travers died of complications from chemotherapy on September 16, 2009.

In the summer of 2010, the State Theatre installed a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system costing $1 million provided by Middlesex County.


  • 1921 Opens on December 26 under the theater management of Walter Reade
  • 1922 State’s management is under-taken by B.F Keith Theater chain
  • 1922-1924 Merges with largest western booking agency, Orpheum, and becomes Keith- Albee-Orpheum
  • 1933 Major design changes occur, ending with RKO art deco renovation
  • 1939 RKO letters are added to façade
  • 1939 With the advent of talking movies, the theater becomes a popular cinema for first-run movies
  • 1950s State Theatre begins to host rock ‘n’ roll shows
  • 1960s Growing popularity of television leads to decline in theater audience
  • 1972 Financial turmoil leads RKO to sell the theater to Jeffrey Gerstin and Carl Wohl
  • 1973 Under new ownership, the theater is now an X-Rated theater
  • 1979 DevCo acquires property
  • 1986 New Brunswick Cultural Center acquires property from DevCo
  • 1987 Renovation begins
  • 1988 Reopening on April 24
  • 2003 Renovation begins in December
  • 2004 Reopening in October with Jay Leno
  • 2010 Middlesex County provides $1 million for the installation of a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system.
  • 2011 State Theatre announces a brand new HD program, including the installation of a 46’ HD Stewart film screen that allows the State Theatre to bring performances, captured live from around the world—including the Royal Opera House in London, England; and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia.


External links

  • Official website
  • Facebook
  • Myspace page
  • YourStateTheatre
  • YouTube
  • Flikr


Coordinates: 40°29′36″N 74°26′41″W / 40.493341°N 74.44462°W / 40.493341; -74.44462

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