23 Aug 2014
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A Trip Down Capitol Theatre's History

Historical Arlington looks through the books of the oldest theatre in town.

A Trip Down Capitol Theatre's History A Trip Down Capitol Theatre's History A Trip Down Capitol Theatre's History A Trip Down Capitol Theatre's History

The , 204 Massachusetts Ave., is Arlington's eldest cinema. The theatre first opened its door all the way back in November of 1925. Movies back then were at the height of the silent film era, just a few years before “talkies” began to take over. Popular films that could have been up at the Capitol during this time include: Battleship Potemkin, Chaplin's The Gold Rush and The Phantom of the Opera.

The theatre was built by the Locatelli family, who were also responsible for the Ball Square Theatre and Central Theatre, both in Somerville. Originally, the cinema housed some 1,600 movie-goers for one showing. The theatre came built with a wonderful stage and dressing rooms for the occasional vaudeville act that would perform before the movie.

The Capitol became known as “Your Home Theatre” for Arlington residents during the 1930s. In the later part of the decade, the Locatelli family sold the theatre and it was subsequentely leased out to popular movie distributors like Paramount. Arthur Viano of Viano's Theatres (Regent Theatre and Somerville and Broadway Theatres) then took the reins of the Capitol. Viano soon sold the theatre to the Fraiman family. When Viano was done with running the theatre himself, the Fraiman's went hands on and ran it as a family business.

This brings us to the 1960s, when Capitol was given its first major renovations. During that decade, faux wood paneling was put in, as was the style at the time. A pleasant surprise awaited the Fraiman'sas they began to tear away this paneling and discover that perfectly preserved granite columns and gold leaf were intact from the theatre's original construction. The Fraiman's took the opportunity to restore the Capitol to its original glory. The only major change in the theatre as it stood when it was built in 1925 is a new concession stand, and instead of simply one screen, the theatre was multi-plexed to stay with current trends of theatre-going.

This new five-screen Capitol Theatre debuted in 1989 and was a big success. The theatre's popularity allowed for another update in 1990—another screen being added to bring the total to six.

Recent renovations came in 2010 when the Capitol jumped on the latest technological craze with 3D projection technology. The theatre now has a trifecta of 3D screens and projectors, boasting the lowest 3D ticket prices in the area.

Click here for a look at the Capitol's current movies, upcoming events and deals.

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