It’s showtime!….A visit to the Victory Theatre, Holyoke, Massachusetts

In an era of days gone by, there were different types of social gathering places. Some examples of these were dance halls, arcades, pool halls, roller-skating rinks, soda shops, and of course movie theaters.  All these venues helped define our culture and bring people together. During the golden age of Hollywood, the excitement of going to the movies wasn’t only about seeing the stars on screen. It also meant spending time at the neighborhood movie theater with family and friends. Many of these theaters were architecturally ornate centers of the community’s social life.

Countless movie theaters of the 1920s and 1930s were so grand that people nicknamed them “picture palaces” or “dream palaces”. Exteriors were flamboyant, electric extravaganzas in the style of art deco, Middle Eastern or Asian architectures.  Unfortunately, the cost of constructing these venues today is cost prohibitive and exorbitant.  That said, as many of these theaters have fallen in dis-repair, the steep cost of repairs is unaffordable as well.  As many of these theaters of the past fall under a non-profit status, the cost of repairs falls solely on the properties themselves. These repairs often exceed the income due to the extreme craftsmanship and present-day costs associated with replacement materials.

Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to visit the Victory Theatre in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The theater was built in 1920. It is a 1,600 seat (Broadway style) theater. The theater has been closed for nearly 4 decades. (Closing in 1979).  The theater is currently owned by the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts (MIFA). MIFA is a non-profit organization that has hopes of renovating the theater in future years.

At the beginning of 2023, MIFA’s executive director said his group has raised about two-thirds of the money needed over the last decade. The total amount is $61 million, they still need $22 million in additional funds before repairs can begin.

Unfortunately, many individuals (including myself) feel that it’s restoration may never come to fruition. Firstly, since it’s been abandoned since the 70’s, the building continues to be in extreme state of decay. Our photo group was allowed to roam about the building to photograph, however there were areas where we were prohibited to enter. Areas where floors and staircases are not safe to walk on. The walls that support the structure and the roof, are deteriorating at an alarming rate, as water cascade’s down them after rainstorms. The roof has numerous openings that allow wildlife to enter, which would probably require a total replacement. In addition, as a result of all of the moisture in the building, all of the seating sections would have to be removed. Sadly, the beautiful carvings surrounding the screen and stage area are seriously decomposing. It was sad to witness this deterioration.

In closing, even though I had not visited the theater in its heyday, photographing in this abandoned building did transport me back. You could feel the nostalgia throughout the structure. Areas that we were still able to visit and photograph were the lobby and seating areas, along with the entryways, the stage and the projection room. Many of these photos are in black and white; I felt black and white gave it a more accurate sense of time and place. I hope to return to the theater in the near future for some additional photography and a step back to a simpler time.


  1. Aaron Reinke says

    Wow! Some incredible photos of such a sad place.

    • Hey Aaron-
      Hope all is well with you and the family! Thanks for the kind words about the theater photos. And yes, it is a sad place. Ironically, a news blurb from March was speaking about “Two cities in New England have been included in the top 100 ‘Most Dangerous Cities’ in America for 2023.” Holyoke where this theater is located is one of them. (Number 87 on the list). And Springfield MA is 99th! Ouch! I only mention that – because Holyoke just screams ‘creepy’ so doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling to visit there. So why would they even bother with the renovating that place. [By the way, guess where my wife and I are going?? Yup – cruising to Canada in August. Doing the Boston, Acadia, Halifax thing again with some friends. LOL…will always remember our trip though!]

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