Gettysburg’s Majestic Theater: ‘This was a golden project’

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The seats in The Majestic in Gettysburg, Pa., are the original design, found off a style number from the original seats. This photo and those below come from an upcoming edition of Spaces magazine. Also of interest: In last issue of Spaces – York artist Horace Bonham’s house: ‘There are paintings of his children throughout the building’ and Hanover’s old State Theater: ‘Don’t lose hope, it’s not dead’ and Dallas Theatre perking along, but Stewartstown’s Ramsay Theatre: ‘It is really in bad shape’.

The Majestic Theater in Gettysburg opened in the mid-1920s, a large vaudeville and silent move theater.
That was the heyday of such theaters. York had a half dozen in operation at one time or another.
Every small town seemed to have one.
Few were as grand as the Majestic.
Spaces magazine, a York Daily Record/Sunday News-produced, publication that profiles high-interest public and private buildings and houses will feature the Majestic in an upcoming issue.
Here are excerpts from the Majestic story in that magazine:


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The main theater seats more than 800 people.

Jeffrey W. Gabel stood in the center back row of the balcony overlooking a transformation where 1925 Colonial Revival meets state-of-the-art technology: The Majestic Theater at the Jennifer and David LeVan Performing Arts Center.
It took several years, countless hours and more than $16 million to turn the disheveled mess into the magnificent gem it is today, said Gabel, founding executive director of the Majestic.
In the 1950s, the theater gained worldwide attention when President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower regularly attended performances.
But time passed, the building changed hands and lost its original brilliance.
“It was a dump,” Gabel said. “The place was dirty … just awful.”
Until 1992, that is.
That’s when Gettysburg College purchased the theater and partnered with the state and the Greater Adams County community to contribute to the revitalization of downtown.
Today, the renovated 60,000-square-foot Majestic Performing Arts and Cinema Center is nothing short of stunning and attracts performers such as James Earl Jones.
Black-and-white photos of the original 1925 theater were used to recreate details including the chandeliers and carpet, Gabel said.
The ceiling of the main theater, which seats more than 800 people, includes 1,500 pieces of pressed tin that were removed by hand, numbered and sent to a restoration company in New York.
One-of-a-kind grand curtains of red and gold flank the stage.
The main theater also features massive columns, original stained-glass exit signs atop doorways, an art gallery, a patron’s lounge, a balcony lobby and a grand staircase.
Two smaller movie theaters are decorated in 1950s-era style and include cuddle seats.
The building also houses a rehearsal hall, a dance studio, flexible space and large dressing rooms.
“Artists love to come here because the space is so nice,” Gabel said.
The site had all the elements needed to make for a fabulous theater, he said.
“I’ve been in the business for over 30 years,” Gabel said. “I saw … that this project had everything in alignment to be successful. … This was a golden project.”

For details about subscribing to Spaces, which contains several additional Majestic photos, contact editor Kara Eberle.
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The Majestic’s tin ceiling had been covered with black paint when it was a movie theater.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
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