From Westerly Life – Tuesday, September 11, 2018
United We Stand
By Gina King / Westerly Life
Over the last few years, Westerly has experienced a steady growth of not only new businesses in the downtown area but also a revival of historic icons that are making a comeback. The United Theater is one such icon that has glimmered back to life with its flashing red lights, like a heartbeat getting stronger and building momentum.
From 1926 up until the late 80s, the United was a film lovers paradise and a mecca for vaudeville entertainers and theater aficionados. It welcomed its share of performers from world-renowned opera stars, vaudeville troupes, and even the late famous Sammy Davis Jr. across its stage.
As silent movies started to fade away The United gained the go-to-place reputation when it became the first theater in the region to feature new film technology known as “talkies,” eventually transitioning to a full-time theater featuring some of the best movies and classics such as Star Wars that was released in 1977 and played there for an entire year given its popularity. But unfortunately, by 1986 the theater had outlived its run, closed its doors and was left in disarray for decades.
Spring forward a few years to 2006 when the Westerly Land Trust purchased the property as part of their Urban Program to focus resources on the redevelopment and enhancement of commercial properties in downtown Westerly.
During the last couple of years, the doors opened at the United Theater, exhaling a revival breath as popup events and fundraising venues welcomed theater goers once more. And The United is building momentum with its capital campaign and has currently raised 7 million dollars towards a $12 million goal, according to Maureen Fitzgerald, chair of the United Theater Board of Directors.