Typically when I visit a place or event, I do a little research to see if there are any additional “wonders” to be found in an area. When I visited Lewistown for the New Year’s Eve “Chip Drop”, I didn’t bother because I have been past Lewistown a zillion times over the years. <head:desk> Just because one can see a town from the highway doesn’t mean one knows what is there. I should know better!
I can’t tell you how psyched I was when I walked into Market Square and saw the dazzling Embassy Theatre marquee! Since 1991, a group called The Friends of the Embassy Theatre has been raising funds and very slowly working on rehabilitating the theater and establishing a community arts center there. I gleaned all of the information about the theater’s history from their website. Visit them online for more detailed information and historical pictures.
The building was first constructed in 1916 as the National Theatre. That two-story building featured a vaudeville theater on the first floor and apartments on the top floor. In 1927, the owners gutted the building and constructed the grand Broadway-style Embassy Theatre. While the theater still hosted vaudeville acts, its primary function was as a movie theater and venue for small stage productions.
A coincidental fact: (appropriate to the evening when I visited) the Embassy debuted its first “talkie “on New Year’s Day, December 31, 1928, at 12:01 am .
In the 1930s & 40s, several Hollywood acts (including Rudy Vallee, Roy Rogers, and Tex Ritter) appeared on the theater’s small stage. Unfortunately, by the late 1950s & 60s, traditional theaters were in decline and the Embassy was no exception. Some movie palaces were re-fitted into multiplexes and many others became XXX-Rated venues (the Embassy fell into the later group). The theater closed for good in 1981 and fell into disrepair and neglect until The Friends of the Embassy Theater purchased it in 1991.
As you can see in the video below, the work on the marquee is complete. I also took some photos through the front window and there appears to be ongoing work on the interior. I’m so grateful that there are people who care enough to preserve treasures like this one!