From The Providence Journal and Rhode Island Spotlight – Sunday, September 2, 2018 (Photo: The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach)
Westerly’s United Theatre being transformed into ‘a center excellence’
By Jim Hummel / The Rhode Island Spotlight
A $12-million renovation will turn the theater building and the former Montgomery Ward department store adjacent to the United into an arts complex.
WESTERLY, R.I. — If you grew up here back in the day, there was a good chance you saw your first movie — and maybe had your first kiss — at the United Theatre. For decades, the giant marquee on Canal Street trumpeted the most popular films of the day: from Walt Disney and horror movies, to “Star Wars,” “Jaws” and “E.T.”
But the arrival of multiplex theaters drastically changed viewing habits. The United, which opened in 1926 as a popular venue for vaudeville shows, closed its doors in 1986 and sat vacant for nearly three decades.
Now it is undergoing a transformation.
“A lot of people in town have memories here. There weren’t too many movie theaters around at the time and it was a way of getting entertainment,″ said state Sen. Dennis Algiere, a Westerly native and patron of the United as a child, who is co-chairing a $12-million capital campaign to convert the old theater into what he calls “mini-Lincoln Center.”