Proctors Theatre

116 Market Street / Newark, NJ

- Proctor's Theatre, Newark - 1905 (photo by Rich Olohan) -

Proctor's Theatres

His first theatre had been the Green Street Theatre in Albany, which he bought in 1880 and renamed Levantine's Theatre.
Four years later he leased the Theatorium in Rochester and the Martin Opera House in Albany. In 1886, he opened Proctor's Novelty Theatre in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, followed the next year by Proctor's Criterion Theatre, also in Brooklyn. In 1889, Proctor purchased a site at 141 West 23rd Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, where he built the 23rd Street Theatre... in 1892, Proctor introduced continuous vaudeville, with programs running without interruption from 11am to 11pm...

followed by the opening of Proctor's first theatre in New Jersey, the Newark Theatre, in 1898.

(edited from The Encyclopedia of Vaudeville by Anthony Slide)

- Proctor's Theatre, Newark - Closed / 2 screens / 3,200 seats (posted by Cinema Treasures)

Opened on November 22, 1915, Proctor’s Palace in downtown Newark was one of the rare “double decker” theatres. Designed by architect John W. Merrow, the eight-story complex had a large 2,300-seat theatre at ground level and a smaller theatre of about 900 seats occupying the top four floors beneath the roof. This fairly narrow building contained only the lobby of the larger theatre, which had its auditorium behind it.

Very little has been reported about the operation of the upstairs theatre, which was apparently seldom used until the early-1960’s, when it was renovated for the presentation of “foreign” films as the Penthouse Cinema.

But the main theatre, with its cavernous two balconies, was always one of Newark’s leaders, first with vaudeville only and eventually taken over by movies exclusively. When all of F.F. Proctor’s theatres were acquired by Radio Keith Orpheum, it became known as RKO Proctor’s. The theatre eventually fell victim to the urban decline of Newark and to RKO’s merger with Stanley-Warner, which operated the nearby and larger Branford Theatre. The new management decided to close Proctor’s Theatre in 1968, and it has been standing more or less derelict ever since.

Hopefully, someone will come to its rescue before it turns into a ruin similar to the ex-RKO Bushwick Theatre in Brooklyn.

RKO Proctor’s Theatre opened in Newark, NJ on November 25, 1915 as the Proctor’s Palace Theatre. The architect was John W. Merrow, the nephew of Proctor theater circuit owner Frederick F. Proctor.

The Palace was a double decker theater, which meant that one auditorium was stacked on top of the other, a rare design choice at the time. The lower, street-level auditorium had 2,300 seats and the upper had around 900. The space was among the largest and most open in the area, leading the city to use it as the site of it’s 250th anniversary celebration in 1916.

- (L) popcorn machine - (R) interior -

Originally, the Palace was a vaudeville theater. The theater eventually switched over to exclusively movie showings, but the occasional vaudeville show – such as Bela Lugosi’s“Horror and Magic Show” – still played there.

Shortly before his death in 1929 F.F. Proctor sold his company to Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation (“RKO”), and the name of the theater was changed to RKO Proctor’s Theatre.

The Palace was closed in 1968 when RKO merged with Stanley Warner, who owned Newark’s larger and more profitable Branford Theater. The lobby has been renovated and is currently used as a shoe store. The rest of the building remains vacant and after years of neglect has started to collapse.

- (L projection booth - (center) box seats - (R) fly bridge -

- View from the top balcony at Proctor’s Palace Theatre -

These remarkable photos come from After The Final Curtain.
All our thanks to Matt for his dedication to old theatres.

Programs available from this theatre:

  • Vaudeville program (February 29, 1904)

  • Return to Index of Theatres