There’s nothing more painful than seeing an old, abandoned theater that has since seen its glory days. But there is also none the more glorious than finding out that it has a chance to relive its glitz and glamor once again.
Such is the rise and fall and rise again story of The Washington Theater in Washington, New Jersey. When it was first opened in 1926, it was the home of everything vaudeville and even of silent movies. Back then, everyone called it “The Showplace” because of its modern architecture and cultural extravagance, with a seating capacity of 800. In the 1930s, it saw its first modernization upgrade and was installed with sound.
We cannot count in one hand the number of people and groups that have taken turns owning The Washington Theater, all with the goal of preserving its heritage and continuing the legacy. But financing the upkeep and ensuring that shows want to set up in the theater and that people continue to walk in and watch are admittedly a huge and expensive responsibility.
By the 1970s, much of the structure had been in need of major repairs and, eventually, in 1997, the structure closed down. A local group tried to revive it, but The Washington Theater had then become a venue for small shows and events that failed to provide the funding needed for it to survive.
However, barely a year later in 1998, Galaxy Theaters took over and acquired The Washington Theater. Major renovations were effected to restore the lobby and auditorium seating back to their original grandeur. But, again, it closed shop in 2001. The theater managed to reopen in 2006, and then shut down again in 2016.
New Lease of Life for The Washington Theater
Why are we writing about this? This is to provide context on the history that The Washington Theater has gone through — and how, through it all, it has remained resilient and still stands in a quiet yet still glorious manner amidst all the modern structures that surround it. Indeed, times have changed — and audience tastes have evolved, but it appears that there remains enough breath and life to this theater for another go.
When the theater received a huge donation from an anonymous donor recently, the local community was over the moon. Finally, The Washington Theater is getting another chance at bringing all of its glory back to life. While we can’t name the sponsor, what we can reveal, however, is that the amount and support that the theater is receiving from behind the scenes is stirring in us a newfound sense of hope (and plenty of excitement) for the future of The Washingon Theater and of the community.
The team has begun getting in touch with an architect, urban planner, and creative designer — and preparations for its major revival are underway. The Washington Theater’s flame has not died down just yet, and there remains plenty of things that it can still deliver to the viewing public beyond the event venue that it is being used for at present. And we are very excited over what the future brings.