In 1968, a teenager who was working at the historic but shabby Beacon Theatre in Beacon was told by his boss to replace the movie titles on the marquee. “Closed for renovation,” the new sign was to say. “Reopening soon.” The young man did what he was told. But in his heart he knew that it was a lie. He knew the Beacon was never opening again. And for four decades, he was right.
What he didn’t know, however, was that when this teenager reached middle age, the Hudson Valley would be in the midst of a theater restoration boom. Up and down the Valley, these historic venues — which were once the very hub of cultural and civic life in the region’s bigger cities but long ago fell into dereliction and blight — are in the process of being returned to their former glory.
Back in the day, theaters like the Beacon and the Ritz, in Newburgh, were often stopovers for New York City talent on the way to the Catskills or bigger venues beyond the Valley; today they are also dedicated to nurturing homegrown talent, mentoring young starry-eyed performers, and giving the region’s many artists more creative outlets. And they are serving as economic engines for the urban revivals taking place in Beacon, Newburgh, and beyond.
All of this is very exciting for newer and younger residents of the Valley, but for old-timers, it’s downright miraculous. Patrick Manning, president of the board of directors of the Beacon’s ownership group, 4th Wall Productions, met the theater’s former marquee-man on June 9, 2011, at the reopening of the “Grand Foyer,” a temporary performance space which will be used until the remainder of the theater’s restoration is completed. Manning didn’t catch the man’s name, but hasn’t forgotten his story. “He told us he never thought he’d be in this old building again,” Manning says. “When he came here for the reopening of a building that had meant so much to him and stood in the lobby again, he got teary. It was incredibly moving.”
See below for some updates on four of the Valley’s current theater restoration projects:
A beacon of light: The Beacon Theater in Beacon
Puttin’ on the Ritz: The Ritz Theater in Newburgh
Also starring: The Rosendale Theatre in Rosendale
Also starring: The Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville