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Built as a one-screen theater in 1925, the Castle Theater is an example of the neighborhood movie theaters built throughout America as motion pictures became a common and affordable form of family entertainment in the early decades of the twentieth century. The two-story brick theater is distinguished by a handsome Art Deco terra cotta façade punctuated by a stainless steel and enameled metal marquee. In the 1970s, the theater was remodeled to accommodate 400 patrons with three screens and served as the largest and most modern cinema in the vicinity. The cinema began to see a dramatic decline in business following the construction of suburban cineplexes in the 1980s.

Despite financial loss, the cinema remained open throughout the 1990s, offering patrons $3 ticket prices in contrast with higher ticket prices offered by the mega-theaters. The once-thriving small neighborhood theaters were hit hard by competition from large movie chains. In 2000, the property owners, facing economic uncertainty, put the theater up for sale. A neighborhood group, with the assistance of State Representative Joanne Giannini, was formed to work with the owner of the theater to find a financially viable use for the neighborhood gem.

In 2002, the building was the recipient of a PPS Preservation Award after its rehabilitation. The property owners acquired a $242,000 low-interest loan through the Providence Economic Development Corporation to help finance the restoration and rehabilitation of this historic theater. The project demonstrated how the preservation and reuse of a prominent local landmark can have a positive impact on its surrounding neighborhood.

Although it had undergone a $750,000 renovation, it was unable to compete with the larger, first-run cinemas and the owners were forced to close the theater indefinitely in April 2004. In 2009, despite the best efforts of the building’s owners, the building was again endangered because of vacancy and vandalism.

SAVED: As of February, 2019, the Castle Theater has found a new life as Federal Pizza.

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© 2023 Guide to Providence Architecture. All rights reserved. Design by J. Hogue at Highchair designhaus, with development & support by Kay Belardinelli.