Needham History Center & Museum Needham History Center & Museum, Needham Massachusetts 02492

The Needham Theater – Street Views, 1915-1958


    The Needham Theater – Street Views, 1915-1958

    The Needham Theatre – later the Needham Paramount, later the Needham Cinema – was an important downtown landmark and a primary source of community entertainment. It shows up in numerous photos of Needham’s downtown, changing as the town changed.

    Click on any image to enlarge.

    The Moseley/May Building, circa 1900.  The building is shown a few years before the Theatre opened.  The Needham Theatre was on the second floor of this large retail block, which stood on the southwest corner of Great Plain Avenue and Chestnut Street.  Entrance to the Theatre was through the covered door on the Chestnut street side, at the left edge of the picture.


    The Needham Theatre marquee in 1929.  Murdoch built his new theater on Great Plain Avenue, and opened it in 1926.  He stated that he would have moved the Theatre to a new location sooner, if it were not for “the unsettled conditions of recent years” – the First World War and the flu epidemic.  On the screen in this image were So This is College, a musical comedy starring Elliott Nugent and Robert Montgomery; and Her Private Life, a romance/drama starring Billie Dove and Walter Pidgeon.


    The Needham Theatre, 1929.  On the screen for Anniversary Week is So Long, Letty, a musical comedy starring Charlotte Greenwood. The six retail stores, three on either side of the entrance, were part of the building.  Murdoch included these in the structure to fill in the street frontage in front of the auditorium portion of the theater, as well as to generate additional revenue.
    Theater Entrance, 1930.  The Needham Theatre was leased to Paramount Publix in 1929, and the marquee was changed to read Needham Paramount.  The poster to the right is a memorial for Lon Chaney Sr. (“the Man of a Thousand Faces”), who passed away in August 1930.
    The Needham Paramount, 1930.  The main showing was Children of Pleasure, a romantic comedy starring Lawrence Gray and Wynne Gibson.  The theater was also showing Lon Chaney Sr.’s last film, The Unholy 3, a talkie remake of a 1925 crime drama.  The poster in the middle advertises the Oscar-winning documentary, With Byrd at the South Pole.
    This image of the entrance was taken at approximately the same time as the one above, since the posters have not changed.
    A postcard view of Great Plain Avenue, between Dedham Avenue and Pickering Street, in the 1930s.  The theater is only visible by the top of its marquee, seen just above the “Drugs” sign.  In the background is the spire of the Baptist Church.
    The Needham Paramount in 1944.  The shows were Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace, starring Cary Grant ans Priscilla Lane; and Music in Manhattan, a musical romance starring Anne Shirley and Dennis Day.  Although the marquee had not changes, the storefronts on either side were modernized. Helene’s sold ladies hats for many years; Decelle’s was a clothing store.  Also visible are Marshall’s Restaurant and Storer’s Footwear (featuring “Enna-Jettick Shoes”).
    Great Plain Avenue, looking west, in 1946.  Decelle’s has expanded, and Storer’s Shoes has moved up the street. Also visible are Marshall’s Restaurant and Whetton’s Coal and Oil.  On the theater marquee is the Randolph Scott western, Badman’s Territory, co-starring Ann Richards.
    The Paramount marquee, 1949.  Sometime between 1946 and 1949, the Paramount replaced the old marquee with a more modern neon version.  The first film was The Doctor and the Girl, a drama starring Glenn Ford and Janet Leigh.  The film, which included an unmarried pregnancy and botched abortion, was controversial for the time.  The second film, Without Honor, was hardly lighter fare – a drama starring Laraine Day, in which one brother (Dane Clark) jealously tries to destroy the marriage of the other (Franchot Tone).
    A wider version of the same scene. Peterson’s (formerly John H. Peterson’s) was a jewelry store.  In the 1929 and 1930 photos, it can be seen to the left of the theater entrance.
    The Needham Cinema in 1958.  Paramount sold the theater to a private operator in 1953, and the new owner renamed the theater and renovated the entry and marquee.
    The Needham Theatre – Interior Views, 1949

    A Last Look Before Demolition

    Theater Programs and Ephemera