Margaretville Theater to celebrate centennial

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Jul. 15—Memorabilia and photos of the Galli-Curci Theater in Margaretville are being sought for a centennial celebration next month.

According to Iris Mead, head of the celebration committee, the group is looking for "anything that has to do with the theater." However, the committee is "specifically looking for inside pictures."

Those pictures can be of stage shows or live entertainment, the ticket seller booth, the popcorn stand or in front of movie posters, she said. The committee is also looking for photos of the marquee announcing special movies or events, early playbills, invitations, ticket stubs or anything else relating to the theater, a media release said.

The Galli-Curci theater, built by Clarke Sanford, publisher of the Catskill Mountain News, opened Aug. 25, 1922, according to a media release. Well-known opera singer Amelita Galli-Curci, who was building her summer home in nearby Highmount, sang opening night, Mead said.

She said Sanford and Galli-Curci were using some of the same people to build their buildings and "they met and became friends. He liked her so much he named the theater in her honor."

For more than half a century the brick theater on Main Street was the entertainment center of the community, hosting first silent movies then 'talkies,' vaudeville shows, home talent plays, traveling musical troupes, high school graduations, celebrations and observances, the release said.

Current owner Jonathan Glazer said he and his partner, Mike Cioffi, purchased the theater building in 2018. He said the building has three parts — apartments, retail space and a larger empty space where the theater was. "It does not have the grandeur it once had. The building has gone through several iterations throughout the years," he said.

Glazer said when the building opened, there was a car dealership in the storefront next to the theater, as well as the newspaper office, which housed its printing press in the basement. He said the theater showed silent movies in the 1920s, then switched to "talkies" during the 1930s. At the end of World War II, the marquee was installed and the theater saw a "glitzier" expansion from 400 to 600 seats. As the profit margins for movie theater operators became worse in the 1970s, the theater held live music and theatrical performances, he said.

The theater closed and an antique market was housed in the theater space for a while before that closed, he said. "I've counted 10 different recollections of the last movie that played there," he said.

Glazer said when long-time residents hear he owns the theater, "they share their experiences." He said most talk about the first dates they went on, or attending the parties on the roof. He said one couple, the Millers, told him they had their first date at the theater and "he didn't have a license, so he brought her on a tractor. They're still together."

He said a former owner of the theater gave him a title of who owned the land that goes back to the Lenape Native Americans.

Glazer said he and Cioffi were approached by the village of Margaretville to hold an anniversary celebration this year. The celebration will be Aug. 27 and 28. The theater will be open both days and there will be a reception and Saturday night concert by vocalist Gina Hanzlik, who will perform the same songs Galli-Curci did opening night, Glazer said. Visitors can also view an exhibit about the history of the building, Sanford and Galli-Curci, and 1920s-era silent films will be screened, the release said. Those with comments or recollections of movies or events at the theater may add them to a memory wall.

People with photos and memorabilia to share can contact Mead at 845-586-4689 to set up a time to have their items scanned, or can email their scanned images to gallicurci100@gmail.com.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.