The Arts in White Plains: Past & Present

Film Production and Cinemas:

City Center on Mamaroneck Ave

In more recent years, film making has become common place in White Plains (WP). Filming can often be seen at various locations in the City but going to a cinema to watch a movie on a big screen has been a favorite pastime in WP for over 100 years. In WP today, people can see a movie on the big screen at Showcase Cinema de Lux City Center 15 but back in the 20th century the city had many more theatres to choose from. They were larger spaces with a single screen.

Most of the old buildings that housed cinemas in WP were demolished but a few were repurposed for other uses. An Auditorium Building at corner of Main St and Mamaroneck Ave showed silent films in the early 1900’s. The building was expanded but later it was demolished in the 1970’s.

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The Auditorium Building is pictured in the center of photograph. It is where Renaissance Plaza is today.

The former building that housed The Colony Theatre (dating from 1926) at 100 Mamaroneck Ave was known as the Music Hall in 1976 and at one time it an RKO. There was one screen with 600 seats. Today the Dollar Tree store takes up the main floor.

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The former Pix (1935-1976) Theater at 355 Mamaroneck Ave was active in the 20th Century showing “talkies.” The inside auditorium underwent a remodel with an addition added in 1940 with 600 seats. After 1976, the theatre became a restaurant. Today the building is used by Pedigree Ski Shop.

Pix Theatre

About 2013

Keith’s RKO on Main St has been gone now for decades. The theater opened in 1927 with vaudeville and movies (Keith-Amber Theatre) but changed name in 1927. In in 1928 (with formation of Radio-Keith-Orpheum Corporation) the name changed to RKO Keith’s Theatre or as advertisements named it RKO White Plains Theatre. Theatre closed around 1966 and the building was demolished in 1970’s.

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Keith Albee’s RKO
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Opening in 1907, the Newell Theatre at 199 Main St became Court Square Theater in 1911. In 1913 it went back to being the Newell but became in 1917 the Palace. By 1926 with building of the Bar Building one section of the building was gone with the rest demolished when the Ritz- Carlton Residence was constructed.

Palace Theatre
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Newell Theatre Auditorium

Loew’s Theatre (134 Main St) opened as the Lynn Theatre in 1921 and was renamed the Loew’s State Theatre in 1924. It had 1,830 seats.

Loew's State Theatre
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Loew's State Theatre
1944

The Strand Theatre was near by and dated from 1920’s. During the 40’s and 50’s the theater showed “B” westerns and locals called the theater The Ranch House. They had one screen with 1,100 seats.

The UA Cinemas (1966-1990’s) at One North Broadway and the Galleria Twin Cinemas (1980 opening) closed in 1990’s but the spaces were repurposed for other uses.

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JJ Sedelmaier Productions founded in 1990 has been at the Bar Building (199 Main St) Penthouse and is a design and animation studio. Sedelmaier was very involved in saving the Bar Building from demolishment. See jjsedelmairer.com and their Facebook page for picture, videos and information/links.

Bar Building

Films are also available for viewing through other venues like the public library, senior center and even outside during summer months through the City’s Parks & Recreation Department.

Books & Poetry:

Poetry events and/or slams are held at WP Public Library, Martin Luther King Jr Library (at the Slater Center) and at other venues (including malls). Book Lectures/signings and other events involving books and authors are frequently held at Barnes and Noble Book Store (at 230 Main Street) and the White Plains Public Library as well as other venues.

Live Performances of Music, Theatre & Dance:

Westchester County Center has live performances throughout the year. WP Performing Arts Center at City Center (wppac.com) has musicals and other events (concerts, comedy). Play Group Theatre (at 1 N Broadway) has activities for children and teens with performances during the year. The Fort Hill Players perform at Rochambeau Theatre along with other events. The public and private schools have plays, musicals and other live music performances throughout the year. Shakespeare Play is performed outside at one of the City’s parks during the summer.

ArtsWestchester holds a Jazz Festival every Fall. Outdoor live music performances are held during the summer months by WP Parks/Rec, at the City Center and now at the renovated 1 N Broadway Plaza. Live performances are held at the library and at Grace Church. There are the weekly free noon day performances at Grace Church called Downtown Music at Grace (dtmusic.org).

Westchester Music Conservatory (established 1929) has events, performances, music therapy and lessons (musicconservatory.org) and is at 216 Central Ave. A School of Rock is located at 242 Central Ave (music & singing lessons). Forbes Music is at 277 Martine Ave (music and voice lessons).

Various bars in White Plains have live music performances. Religious organizations hold concerts and/or other music events during the year and many have choirs. The New Westchester Symphony Orchestra (formed 2011) has rehearsals and concerts in WP (newsymphony.org).

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City Center Dance teaches dance at 98 Lake Street (citycenterdance.com). Steffi Nossen School of Dance (founded 1937) is located at Westchester Music Conservatory at 216 Central Ave (steffinosen.org). Arthur Murray has a ball room dance studio in WP at 139 E Post Rd. Cobra Performing Arts Center is located at 2 Fisher Circle.

City has two music stores. Sam Ash at 178 Mamaroneck Ave and D Z Strad Violin Shop at 60 S. Lexington Ave. Union Recording Studio is at 19 S Broadway.

Art & Crafts:

White Plains used to have a few art galleries in its Business District but now just the galleries at ArtsWestchester exists. Dafco African Art Gallery (once at 193 Mamaroneck Ave (opening in 2001) (dafcogallery.com) is now at ArtsWestchester (31 Mamaroneck Ave) (opening in 2013).
ArtsWestchester has studios and a public gallery that holds events throughout the year. Recently they were involved in painting the street around the building.

Harlem fine art show is held in WP now for at least the last seven years. Video from this year’s show is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDhuhReKGBU&feature=youtu.be

WP Outdoor Arts Festival (since 1962) has been holding a June event in Tibbits Park yearly for decades. The festival raises funds for Student Scholarships. Due to lack of volunteers, the festival will not happen this June 2019 after a 56 yr run.

Knitting groups meet in WP. Knit Wits (from 1992) have items for sale at the WP Hospital Boutique. Stitch & Bitch of Westchester (established in 2010) meet on Friday’s at Panera Bread from 1-3pm (snbowc.wordpress.com). Second Saturday Knitters (that meet at the WP library 2nd Saturday each month). The White Plains Library, the WP Parks & Rec Department and Malls also sponsor activities for crafting and knitting.

Muse Paintbar, 84 Mamaroneck Ave has events and painting classes. Bead Everything at 175 East Post Rd has bead crafting classes and sells equipment and beads needed to make jewelry. Art classes can be taken at Westchester County Center through Westchester Community College (sunywcc.edu/locations/arts/). Thompsons Art Supply on Mamaroneck Ave has been in business for decades and has craft and art supplies for sale. Reilly Art League of Artists at 230 Ferris Ave from the middle 1970’s has been holding sessions with live models for artists in their media of choice.

Handmade craft items and art are available for purchase at the ArtsWestchester Shop (31 Mamaroneck Ave) and there are usually craft sales at different venues for the holidays.

Sculptures, murals and street painting can be found throughout the city and at the malls. See the section of my website on “Art in WP.”

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Main St (all buildings on left till William St where 5 story building is were demolished for Office buildings during Urban Renewal (1966-1980). Loew’s is where Galleria is today.