Providence Performing Arts Center



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  1962 - present



The Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) (formerly Loew's State Theatre, Palace Concert Theater & Ocean State Theatre) is a multi-use theater located at 220 Weybosset Street in Providence. The building was built as a movie palace by the Loews Theatres chain and opened in 1928. PPAC contains over 3,000 seats and hosts touring Broadway shows, concerts, plays and films




1928-1950 - Loew’s State Theatre





The Loew’s State opened its doors on October 6, 1928 as a premier picture palace of Rhode Island with a seating capacity is 3232. One of the main draws of the theater was not the films it showed, but its opulent design, created by The Rapp brothers. The Rapps (George and C.W.) were architects who made their name by designing beautiful movie houses, complete with chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, marble columns and detailed moldings on the walls.


On opening day, the feature film attraction was the "Metro Movietone sound picture" Excess Baggage with William Haines. Also on the program were Movietone and Vitaphone offerings, M.G.M. and Fox news, and Joseph Stoves at the "mighty $100,000 Morton organ."The first person to purchase a ticket was a 14-year-old Providence boy by the name of James Riley, who had waited hours for the honor. Over 14,000 people jammed the building to marvel at the eye-popping opulence. The fans were led to their seats by 50 uniformed ushers, past perches in the lobby holding talking parrots.


The theatre earned the distinction of being named to the National Register of Historic Places for its "period of significance" being the Golden Age of the movies, from 1925 to 1949.



1950 - 1972 - Loew's Theatre



By the late 50’s and 60’s the theater saw more live concerts as a way to keep the doors open and to keep up with the new trends of the youth market which is now known as “The Golden Age of Rock n Roll”.




1972 - 1975 - Palace Concert Theatre



By 1971 The Loew’s Theatre was purchased by B.A. Dario for $250,000. and it continued to run under that name until February of 1972 when it became the Palace Concert Theatre as a venue for rock concerts. Dario's great nephew Randy Hien worked at the Palace managing concessions and other things before starting his own club called "The Living Room"  By this point the building was starting to show its age and the rock audience did not help. The theater got run down with ceiling problems that leaked, too much smoking and abuse with little or no maintenance. On November 1, 1975 Tower of Power and Dr. John played the last show at the Palace. 

1975 - 1978 - Politics and Pasta

During this period politics came into play with Mayor Buddy Cianci being the spearhead along with B.A. Dario's wife Sylvia Bacchiocchi to save this majestic palace from being torn down and turned into a parking lot.  In reviewing Mayor Cianci's book"Politics and Pasta", David Kaiser wrote "Yet a far more revealing story involves the preservation of Providence's last remaining old movie palace, the downtown Loew's Theater, which subsequently became the Providence Performing Arts Center. The owner, B. A. Dario, had asked for a permit to demolish it. He found "a Waspy group" that wanted to buy and refurbish it, and he went to work making the deal happen, eventually pledging $1 million of city funds, quite possibly without the slightest idea where they would come from. Eventually he closed--or so he thought--the deal, only to get a phone call from Dario demanding an additional $40,000 on the grounds that the buyers had promised to pay him $1000 a day during negotiations. Buddy, who knows how to bargain, solved the problem by appointing Dario "artistic consultant to the city of Providence" for $25,000. "Now that," he writes, "is the kind of deal that I should have gone to jail for." That is only one of at least a dozen stories along those lines, most of them with happy endings.

(Above passage borrowed from David Kaiser called An American Original






1978 - 1982 - Ocean State Theatre



The theater opened its doors again now as the Ocean State in October of 1978. It ran another four years under that name and even though they wanted to change the image of the venue and book musicals and upscale events, more rock concerts still came to visit the theater because it still brought in more revenue during its transition. The Ocean State did manage to make one investment of significant value by buying an organ.




"Arthur P. Slater was the State Theater's chief projectionist for 40 years. One of the major attractions of Loew's State was always the Mighty Morton Organ. On opening night, in 1928, the organ rose dramatically out of the orchestra pit, and was played by Joseph Stover, imported all the way from Paris.


The original 1,500 pipe organ was sold in 1963 to one Patsy Fucci of Waltham, Massachusetts. It had been in the theatre for a good 30-plus years. It was a four-manual Robert-Morton organ that had cost about $125,000 when new in 1928. A Providence Evening Bulletin article of March 16 that year reported manager William Trambukis as saying that Mr. Fucci had carted the organ away over a period of weeks, using big trailers. Some of the pipes were taller than a house. The instrument had only been used occasionally after the advent of sound movies. It had also been seriously damaged in the 1954 hurricane which flooded Loew's. Mr. Fucci was a connoisseur of organs and a post office clerk and would set up the organ in his basement. It would be powered by a motor in his garage.


In 1982 the Ocean State as part of their restoration project decided it needed to purchase another organ to replace the mighty Morton. Finally they found a beautiful Opus 1587.  The Wurlitzer Company built only three five-manual organs -- all of which are still playing today. The Opus 1587, with just 21 ranks, opened in Chicago's 3,980-seat Marbro Theatre in 1927. In the early '60s, it was reinstalled in Byron Carlson's Minneapolis, Minnesota home. It remained there until 1982, when he sold it to the Ocean State Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, where it now is played frequently.



1982 - present - Providence Performing Arts Center



The Providence Performing Arts Center has undergone massive renovations throughout its history. With some of the early work done, the name was changed to the current PPAC in 1982. Renovations throughout the 1990s and early 2000s have allowed the theater to accommodate large Broadway productions as well as orchestra performances. Technology has been brought up-to-date over the years with the addition of air conditioning and heating systems, fire safety measures, LED marquees and flat screen television monitors. Updated seating and electrical wiring have been installed, while cosmetic renovations have recreated the original 1920s-era styling of the Rapp brothers. It now features primarily Broadway show series, as well as Philharmonic concerts and other events, including Bright Night Providence, RI's artist-run New Year's Eve Celebration.  PPAC is a theatre of majestic quality and we must always remember the people who fought for its survival at a time when demolition was just around the corner. 


Thank you Ms Sylvia (B.A. Dario) Bacchiocchi and Mayor Buddy Cianci for saving this building.


For more pictures of the beautiful renovation work click here.

We ask your help to fill in the history of the theater with other concerts, tickets, ads, photos or recording that may exist. Please send us an email to