From The Providence Journal – October 22, 2020
By Rob Duguay / Special to The Journal
From 1926 to 1986, the United Theatre in downtown Westerly was the epicenter of the town’s live entertainment scene.
Beginning as a vaudeville theater, screening the silent film “Tessie” along with its live acts, the United eventually drew overflow crowds as the first theater in the region to show talking pictures. Vaudeville performers who graced its stage included such future legends as Sammy Davis Jr.
But the downtown movie house, where the 1977 sci-fi classic “Star Wars” played for a full year, went dark in the 1980s, abandoned until the Westerly Land Trust bought it in 2006 as part of an urban revitalization program.
Today, the nonprofit United Theatre is reinventing itself through an ambitious renovation, with the goal of becoming a multipurpose music, cinema and arts space. The complex will include a 650-seat multi-use auditorium, a three-screen first-run cinema, a full-time music, media and arts-education center, the South County bureau for The Public’s Radio, a restaurant, and more.