From The Resident – February 19, 2019
United Theatre: Uniting Community Through The Arts
Story and Photo By Alexis Ann
When you hear talk of Westerly’s United Theatre, 5 Canal Street, it often sparks romantic reminiscing like holding hands in the dark with a school crush or even a first smooch in that wonderful balcony high above, set back from the lower main seating area. First opened as a vaudeville theatre, the United saw its share of big name performers. From world-renowned opera stars to well-known vaudeville troupes to being the go-to theatre for silent was the first theatre in the region to showcase the “talkies” in 1929. When the hit Star Wars was released in 1977, it was held-over at the United for an entire year!
Generations of families experienced vaudeville shows and watched movies at the United. Unfortunately, in 1986, the theatre faded into disuse. The Westerly Land Trust purchased the theatre in 2006 as part of their Urban Program. The purpose of the program is to focus resources on the redevelopment and enhancement of commercial properties in the downtown, particularly those in areas of historic significance to the town.
At a recent Business Expo hosted by Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, inside the historic theatre, the once go-to destination for area film lovers from 1926 through 1986, local businesses and entrepreneurs displayed their products and chatted it up with around 150 very enthusiastic and generous attendees. People were in high spirits.