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

The Needham Theatre in its Prime

A recent donation of pictures from the 1940s of the Needham Paramount interior inspired us to write an article about the theater for our quarterly newsletter, The Gazette (see the story here), and to make those pictures, as well as some of the other related materials in our collection, available online.

The Needham Theatre first opened in 1915 in rooms above the general store on the southwest corner of Great Plain Avenue and Chestnut Street. Within a short time, that space became inadequate, and the owner, David Murdoch, built a new cinema on Great Plain Avenue between Dedham Avenue and Pickering Street. Despite changes of ownership and name, Needham’s movie theater was a beloved local institution that not only showed movies, but held events and benefits, and other activities.  In its early days, it also had a vaudeville stage.

The theater’s offerings were a mirror of local sensibilities, and the changes in society that happen over time.  Its first showing was the moralistic drama The Christian (1914); one of its last attempts to remain open was an unsuccessful bid in 1987 to show the X-rated Italian film Devil in the Flesh (1969). USA Cinemas, which operated the theater at that time, cancelled the scheduled showing when they were told that it would “not do well” in Needham.  The theater soon after succumbed to the blockbuster multi-plex economics of the modern cinema industry, closing for good in 1989.

The Needham Theater – Exterior and Street Views, 1915-1958

The Needham Theatre – Interior Views, 1949

A Last Look Before Demolition

Theater Programs and Ephemera