St. George Theater
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Completed in 1929 for owner Solomon Brill, the St. George Theater is one of the treasures of the North Shore of Staten Island. The main architect for the theater was Eugene DeRosa. He was assisted by the "dean of Staten Island architects," James Whitford. The theater's Spanish and Italian Baroque style interior was designed by Nestor Castro. Even though generations of Staten Islanders refer to or remember the St. George as a movie theater, the original 2876 seat structure was planned as part of the Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO) vaudeville circuit. Only when the theater was nearly complete in 1929 was a projection booth and spotlight stand contrived by the architects and added to the theater's interior.
The first movie to be shown at the St. George Theater was So This is College. Famous performers such as Al Jolson, Kate Smith and Guy Lombardo performed on the theater's stage.
Either because or in spite of the theater's ornate interior—decorative gold plaster work, stained glass and ironwork—the St. George is blessed with near-perfect acoustics. It is not uncommon, to this day, for a name performer to stand beneath its six-story proscenium and remark on how beautiful the theater looks and sounds. It is possible to stand center stage and hold a room-level conversation with someone in the upper balcony, six stories away without raising one's voice.
Fabian Theaters, a movie theater chain, owned and operated the St. George Theater, as its flagship on Staten Island, in the 1940s, 1950's and 1960s. Visitors to the St. George Theater today who utilize the men's room on the main level are actually in what was once the "district office" for Fabian Theaters, in 1965. In the late 1960s, the Fabian chain was broken up; the theater was operated by Fabian's former general manager until 1975.
When that organization departed, the theater was leased to a Staten Island concern, Victoria Theaters. It was the plan of these young entrepreneurs to return the theater to its roots: live stage shows and concerts integrated with film. For the first time since the 1950s, the St. George stage was used as a presentation stage, and not simply as a base for its massive movie screen. Although Victoria Theaters only operated the St. George for approximately a year—from April 1976 to February 1977, Sly Stone, Chaka Kahn, and Lester Flatt represented the broad diversity of music acts who graced the St. George's stage during that period.
In 1978, the St. George Theater ended its life as a movie house. Several entrepreneurs tried to revive it as a dinner theater, a night club and an antiques showroom but none were successful. Others tried their hands at revival and renovation, but it was finally Mrs. Rosemary Cappozalo, in league with her daughters, Luanne Sorrrentino and Doreen Cugno who, in 2004, began a not-for-profit organization to save the historic theater from the wrecking ball.
Since the theater reopened in June 2004, over 400 events have taken place there. Tony Bennett, Judy Collins, k.d. lang, Garrison Keillor, David Cassidy, Davy Jones, Adam Lambert, Cyndi Lauper, The B-52's, Don McLean, Art Garfunkel, Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando, Liza Minnelli, Neil Sedaka, Taylor Hicks, Bret Michaels, Diana Ross and the Jonas Brothers have all performed there.
Top comics have appeared and will be appearing as well as Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin James, Rosie O'Donnell, Colin Quinn, Lily Tomlin, Louis CK, Joan Rivers, John Pinette, Jim Belushi, Steve Martin, and Bill Cosby
Steven Spielberg's NBC television show Smash used the theater for filming in the 2012 season.