In 1924 building begins to construct a $150,000 Moving Picture Theatre for Lincoln Place. Designed along the lines of the now gone Lyons Theater in Morristown and the still operating Rialto in Westfield, both considered the latest in movie house architecture of the time period, the theater was designed to provide great acoustics for the Morton Organ build in California for Madison. Scheduled to open in 1925 on Columbus Day, the theatre was decorated with marble and frescoes, the stage adorned with white pillars, with beautiful painted and bronze plates surrounding a circular dome in the ceiling, painted sky-blue and filled with stars.
Entertaining generations of Madisonians, including free concerts for soldiers during World War II, the theater has been a mainstay for local entertainment. Nearly lost in 1986, the community rallied and over 300 residents signed a petition to save it and turn it into a non-profit organization. Before those plans could be completed, a new buyer stepped in and reopened the theater in 1988. To the delight of the community the movies would go on!
Thirty years later, the theater is again in great jeopardy. A real estate development company has purchased the theater with plans to demolish it and build a four story apartment building with retail stores on the first floor. The community has rallied again, with over 1700 signatures collected to save the theater and finish the work begun in 1986 –namely create a non-profit movie, culture, and performing arts center for the enjoyment of the citizens of Madison and the surrounding communities. When we save the theater we not only preserve an important part of our history, we invest in our community’s future.
Save Madison’s Movie Theater! Sign the Petition!
We, the Concerned Residents and Friends of Madison request that the Mayor and Council uphold the vision of the Borough of Madison’s Historic Civic Commercial District by preserving our town’s only movie theater. This theater has served residents for generations and has enriched our lives and our community. The Theater has been a key part of our community since before World War II…90 plus years!! The building and the theatre are an integral part of the Lincoln Place streetscape that should be preserved. The new owner’s intention to demolish the theater to build apartments is not consistent with the site’s history or best use. This site is simply too important to lose to private development that would forever change the nature of our Historic Downtown District.
Lyons Madison Theater – August 1927 – courtesy of Valerie Pisapia and Natalie Pisapia Scarborough – click to image to enlarge
Lyons Madison Theater – photo of the theater being constructed -click to image to enlarge
Interior of Washington Theater whose design was based on Lyons Madison Theater’s interior design – click to image to enlarge