Curtain falls

With future uncertain, 80-year-old theater may host its final show today

Email|Print| Text size + By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / December 2, 2007

It may be the final curtain for the landmark Stoughton Cinema Pub. Unless a buyer comes forward soon, today's presentation of "A Christmas Carol" will be the last at the historic theater in the heart of Stoughton.

The single-screen movie house stopped showing films last month, and since then has been used by a local troupe known as The Little Theatre of Stoughton.

"It's going to be a farewell presentation, I think, unless someone buys it and wants to continue it as a performing arts center," said Jan Jones, chairman of The Little Theatre of Stoughton, which will vacate the building Dec. 15.

All of which makes this weekend particularly bittersweet for theater patrons and fans.

The theater "is an old antique," Jones said. "We've been in town 51 years, the theater has been there for 80. We've done a great many shows there. We've been growing old together, and now it's like we're not able to complete our journeys."

What began as the State Theatre has been at 807 Washington St. since Dec. 8, 1927. In its heyday, the grand old playhouse had an ornate facade, with a large electronic sign spelling out "STATE" in giant letters.

On opening night, an audience of more than 1,000 people gathered in the theater to watch vaudeville performers dance, tell jokes, and sing. Then the 1927 film "Smile, Brother, Smile," starring Jack Mulhall and Dorothy Mackaill, was shown on the wide silver screen.

At the time, the local newspaper gushed about "this grand new edifice, whose beauty not only is seen on the outside, but penetrates the high brick walls and the spacious granite frontage into the interior of the theater with its comely decorated walls, its wonderful stage with new scenery equipment, a fine new and modern Estey pipe organ, with all attachments, and the most comfortable seats available."

Sometime mid-century, State Theatre's name was changed to Stoughton Cinema Pub, but it still contains vestiges of the original building.

"It's a wonderful old theater," said local historian and author Dave Lambert, who is also starring in this weekend's production of "A Christmas Carol."

Lambert started a group on, a popular social networking website, in honor of the Stoughton cinema. As of last week, the "Friends of the Stoughton Cinema/State Theatre" Facebook group had 115 members.

"I was saddened to see the doors close," said Lambert.

There is talk around town that some potential buyers are interested in preserving it as a performance space, but so far nothing definite.

Former selectman Gerald Goulston, who served as a trustee of the property for many years, said he's involved in litigation over it with the current landlord, Joe Banks.

"It's been a tradition in town," said Goulston. "There are legal issues that have to be resolved. It's up in the air."

Neither Banks nor Goulston would elaborate on the legal proceedings.

"Hopefully it will work out for everybody," said Banks.

Meanwhile, today's show goes on, the future uncertain.

"It should be a great holiday tribute to the community and to the theater," said Jones. "We're excited to have the opportunity to do so."

Adds Lambert: "We're hoping it won't be the final show that graces the doors of the theater."

Tickets for "A Christmas Carol" at the Stoughton Theatre (1 p.m. showtime) are $15 and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at

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