1926: GRAND OPENING
The Capitol Theatre, designed by noted architect Thomas Lamb, opened on Wednesday, August 18, 1926 as a dignified playhouse with great decorative beauty and luxurious comfort. The open letter to Port Chester residents published in the newspaper that week boasted that it would contain “the only theatre refrigerating system in Westchester County.” The grand opening, which included a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by a ten-piece orchestra and a showing of “The Sea Wolf,” sold out all of its seats (then 2,000), and had to turn hundreds away.
People traveled from near and far to see shows at The Capitol. Hollywood kept the theatre going for decades with films like “Casablanca,” “Gone With The Wind” and “The Taming of The Shrew.” Enthusiasts could pay as little as 5 cents to see a double-feature Sunday matinee.
1970’s: ROCK N’ ROLL
By the late sixties, the tone had changed. Movies were out, and live music was in. The theatre was renovated as a psychedelic performance space, and hosted just about every major rock and roll act throughout the early 70’s. Under the direction of rock promoter Howard Stein, the likes of Janis Joplin, Traffic, Pink Floyd, and the Grateful Dead all graced the Port Chester stage during its hey-day. By 1976, however, the theatre was shut down due to a new village ordinance that prohibited live entertainment after 1 a.m. It was at this time that Mother Nature became the sole owner of the Capitol Theatre. The roof decayed, and pigeons made the stage their new home. The theatre remained dark until the early 80’s.
1983: CHANGING HANDS
In 1983, the Capitol Theatre was purchased by local developer Marvin Ravikoff and a new round of renovations began. On Wednesday, March 7, 1984, the Capitol Theatre was open for business again. Only a quarter of the theatre was filled for its grand opening performance of “Misalliance” that night, but Ravikoff had no doubt the revived theatre would be a success. In 1984, The Capitol Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Capitol Theatre was mainly used to put on plays and musicals during the mid-80’s, and underwent continuous renovations for several years. There was a brief resurgence of rock concerts in the early 90’s when well-known acts like Phish and Blues Traveler visited the Port Chester stage. However, due to the poor economy at the time, it was difficult for any theatre to thrive and the small size of the Capitol no longer appealed to top-name entertainment. Ravikoff turned in a different direction and hoped to attract conventions and seminars instead. Eventually, the idea to turn the theatre into a catering hall for weddings and formal events came about.
1997: CATERING HALL
Since 1997, the theatre has hosted special events ranging from fundraisers to bar mitzvahs. Removing the seats from the main floor allowed the theatre to be transformed into a dance floor for weddings, or a dining area for corporate blow-outs. The Capitol’s stage made it unlike any other catering hall, and lent itself to private performances from acts like Hootie and the Blowfish and Katy Perry.
2011: THE CAP IS BACK
In December 2011, Peter Shapiro announced that The Capitol Theatre would be re-opening with himself at the helm, and began yet a third round of serious renovations. Previously the owner of the legendary Wetlands Preserve in Manhattan and currently the owner of the Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, Shapiro has no shortage of experience when it comes to running successful live music venues. He planned to breathe new life into the historical theatre—with state-of-the-art light, sound and video systems; as well as new carpets, repainted walls and upgraded bathrooms.