From Westerly Life – April 16, 2019
The Revival of the United Theater – A Brief History and the Latest Updates
Story By Emily Grace Le May
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been awaiting the opening of the United Theater in downtown Westerly with bated breath. I recently checked in with the group’s public relations manager Tony Nunes for an update on all the latest plans.
If you’re unfamiliar with the theater’s long history, here’s a brief overview. Originally opened in 1926 as a vaudeville performance center, United once hosted acts such as the Will Mastin Trio, featuring the talents of a very young Sammy Davis Jr. Over time, the theater transitioned into screening silent films and eventually “talkies” a few years later, including the original Star Wars in 1977. Unfortunately, competition with another movie theater on Granite Street in the late 1970s proved to be too much, forcing United to shut their doors in 1986.
The revival of the United Theater has been in the works for years. The Westerly Land Trust purchased the building in 2003 as part of its Urban Initiative, and the State Cultural Bond Initiative approved in 2014 helped to secure funds towards its restoration, with the United Theater establishing itself as a non-profit the following year. The previously defunct theater and now re-energized nonprofit promises to become an arts and cultural center in the coming years and help further revitalize and transform our town into a destination for more than just our fabulous beaches.