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Little Theatre

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The Little Cinema Movement

The Little Theatre began in Rochester in 1928 as a link in a proposed chain of small theatres designed to provide an "intimate" alternative to the large commercial movie houses of the day. The "little cinema movement," which was dedicated to showing "art films that appeal to the intelligent and sophisticated," started in 1925. When it opened in 1929, the Little Theatre was the fifth "little temple of the cinema" to be built. The "little cinema movement" represented a response to the mass merchandising trends in the entertainment industry that was gathering momentum in the 1920s with the ascension of mass circulation magazines and the arrival of radio. With movie companies and film producers devoting increasing attention to the new and mass market "talking" motion pictures, the "little cinema movement" attempted to reach an audience open to the experimental, the eclectic, and the unusual. It hoped to appeal to devotees of silent films, foreign films and films based on the classics.

The Historic Structure

The theatre was constructed in the art deco style by Edgar Phillips of Rochester and Frederick Pike of Buffalo. The distinctive style of the original theatre, now Little I, the main building, has earned it a place on the National Register of Historic Places. Although the striking exterior is most familiar to countless Rochestarians, Pike's original interior was equally dramatic. It also reveals the extent to which the developers sought to define -- and cater to -- their audience. Pike's original interior design incorporated many of the style elements features in all the "little theatres" of the movement. Elements were chosen to encourage relaxation. Design features encouraged patrons, in the words of one early promotional brochure, "to sip delightful Java and smoke -- cigarettes of your own choosing." Created for comfort and "quiet," interiors offered sumptuous lounges appointed with deep carpets, velvet, drapes and soft lighting to encourage rest, relaxation, and "intimate chat." Such lounges would function as retreats where persons might peruse magazines and books -- "the arty kind of course."

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Details and Specs

Hours of Operation:
Tue10:00 AM3:00 PM
Wed10:00 AM3:00 PM
Thr10:00 AM3:00 PM
Fri10:00 AM3:00 PM
Notes: None Listed


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