Marblehead’s Warwick Theatre

old Warwick copy

Warwick Theatre   a/k/a ” The Warhoop”

What was the first movie you saw at the Marblehead Warwick Theatre? I believe mine was Old Yeller in probably the early 1960’s.  I think I went with my cousins, Linda, Lois and Chipper.

A few weeks ago on one of the Marblehead Facebook pages someone asked the question of when the theatre was turned from one theatre to two, so I thought I would tell a little history of this town landmark. In July 1916 a group of businessmen formed the Warwick Theater Company of Marblehead.  The incorporators were:  W. L. Terhune and his son Everit, W. H. Bunting, Clarence H. Holloway, Greely S. Curtis, Herbert Humphrey, Nathaniel C. Lyon, W.C. Gregory, B.W. Hobart, H.J. Adams, Samuel Shuman, Calvin Tilden, Arthur W. Hugeley, Mrs. Nellie C. Huguley, D.B. H. Power, Charles W. Conklin and Richard W. Drown.  Greely S. Curtis was the President, W.L. Terhune, Treasurer and Business Manager; Calvin Tilden, Clerk.  Mr. R.W. Drown was in charge of the producing management as he was connected with many successful theatres in the country. The organization purchased what was the old bowling alley on Pleasant Street next to the Rechabite Building from Mr. Herbert T. Curtis. The bowling alley was demolished and construction on the theater began.

The name “Warwick” was from a quaint English town with a historical castle. They decided that the name was something different from the ordinary names used for theaters in the time. Mr. Terhune once remarked “Unless I am greatly mistaken, Marblehead will have in the Warwick Theater the handsomest and neatest little house of its kind of any town of its size in New England.”

Warwick-Theater-Dan Dixey from Dave Crowley's site copy

The Warwick was designed by Architect Penn Varney of Lynn, MA. The building was 49 feet across the front and 125 feet deep, built of stucco walls.  The auditorium was 45 by 100 feet and was 23 feet in height providing for good ventilation.  The stage was 26 feet by 15 feet enclosed with a plush asbestos curtain, similar to those being built in New York City in that time. In the front of the building was a 20 foot square foyer with the ticket booth in the center.  Up a small flight of stairs were two large entrances to the auditorium which had a floor that sloped toward the stage.  The seating capacity at that time was about 1000 folding chairs.

The woodwork was all mahogany and the walls were painted green on the lower half and the upper was a rose color. The building was heated with steam and lit by electricity.  The stage had white pillars and trellises decorated with flowers. In front of the stage in the area of a theatre usually used as an orchestra pit, in the Warwick there was a large orchestra organ.  There were two toilet rooms, as they were called, in the corners of the auditorium one for men and one for women.  The projector was in a small room over the entrance of the building and was made fireproof by using bricks 12 inches thick and lined with asbestos. There were several extra exits so in case of fire the theatre could be evacuated in 3 minutes.  There was a large American Flag which was donated by Clarence H. Holloway and a second one donated by W. L. Terhune who supervised the construction of the theatre.

Cutler Titus of Swampscott was the general contractor for the project. A.J. Sanford of Marblehead did the heating and ventilation; Connell and McDermott of Swampscott did the plumbing; Ralph Melzard of Lynn was the electrician; and the stage setting was constructed by Essex Lumber of Lynn.  The Pipe Organ was made by Seeburg and Co. of Chicago and installed by M. Steinert and Sons of Boston.

The employees on opening night were: R. W. Drown, General Manager; W. L. Terhune, Business Manager; E.B.Thomas, House Manager; John Morgan, Ticket Seller; Knott Bartlett, Ticket Taker and Caretaker; Miss Gertrude Vincent, Ticket Seller.

opening night warwick

Opening night was April 9, 1917 featuring E. H. Sothern in “The Man of Mystery.” As was customary in the early days of movie theatres there was an opening act and this night it was Hughie Mack.  During this week the Warwick also showed the moving pictures taken of the infamous Tenth Deck Division of Marblehead of the Massachusetts Naval Militia as they left for WW I,(You can learn more about the Tenth Deck and the War in my book “Marblehead and WW I: At Home and Overseas.”  The receipts for opening night were given to the committee in town in charge of raising funds for the dependents of the Marbleheader’s serving in the war.  I am wondering if this had something to do with why some of us called it the “War –hoop”, as it was opened during World War 1.

From what I found the McNulty’s purchased the theatre in 1922 from Fred M. Libby who was the former owner of the Lyceum in town. It remained in the McNulty family until they sold it in 1999. Many renovations were done over time to keep the theatre modern.  In December 1929 they installed talking movie equipment and spring cushioned upholstered chairs. The walls and ceiling were repainted a light shade of buff and the lower half of the walls were green.  The cost of these upgrades cost about $26,000. The most drastic renovations were done in 1980 when it became a twin cinema. In 2012 it was reopened under the name of Warwick Place.  Thankfully we still have the marquee hanging outside.  In 1948 the McNulty family commissioned C. I. Brink, the company that built the Citgo Sign in Kenmore Square, to construct the neon and steel marquee. Some of the people that worked when the McNulty family owned it were: Bob Manley, the chief projectionist, Helen Lund, head cashier and Tom Caswell who managed the concession stand.

So be truthful – how many of you tried to sneak into the theatre thru the side door on the right side of the theatre. I never did, but I admit I did open the door to let someone in!!.

Copyright 2016 @ Marge Armstrong     Marblehead’s Warwick



2 thoughts on “Marblehead’s Warwick Theatre

  1. This was a good read-thank you for the history of the theater. We live in one of the summer homes that William Terhune built for his family in Swampscott. The realtor told us that he and his friends founded the Warwick Theatre in order to ensure that the summer folk had a local theatre for their entertainment. Now we know that she was telling the truth!


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