Dorchester Illustration of the Day no. 2070 Oriental Theatre organ

Dorchester Illustration of the Day no. 2070

Scan of illustration in “Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ, opus 2131.” by Terry L. Hochmuth.  The organ was originally installed in the Oriental Theatre in Mattapan Square.  It is described as Three manuals, Nineteen ranks.

Located at 1601 Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan Square, the Oriental Theatre building has become Capitol Electric Supply Co. The Oriental was one of the few and best “atmospheric” movie theatres in the area.

During the “golden” age of great movie houses, “atmospherics” were the ones with a strong romantic theme, such as an Egyptian theme, incorporating the features of lighting and architecture to create an illusion that the patrons were seated outdoors in an exotic locale. This effect was achieved by projecting images of stars and moving clouds onto a grey painted, seamless ceiling, using a brenograph, which is a special type of projection equipment designed expressly for this purpose. The use of projected images is the key element in an “atmospheric” theatre. When the lights would go down, the auditorium would seem to have no roof and the ceiling would light up like the night sky. This use of projected clouds and stars was quite innovative in the 1930s. Some theatres seemed to be Spanish Mediterranean villages; others were like walled medieval courtyards. The Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood is probably the most well-known example or the Fox in Detroit or the Fox in Atlanta.

The Oriental in Mattapan also had a “Chinese” atmosphere. There were niches along the theatre side walls with oriental figures in them. The eyes lit up red when the house lights went down. Clouds crossed over above the audience, and the ceiling appeared to be blue velvet with stars shining. The interior of the theatre was moved some time ago to a theater somewhere on the South Shore, perhaps Canton.

The theatre opened in 1929 and closed in 1971 playing “Diamonds Are Forever.” Originally part of Jacob Lourie’s and Sam Pinanski’s NETOCO, then Paramount-Publix and M & P, closing as one of the last of the old American Theatres Corp. (ATC). It was intended to be built in Waltham, but ended up in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood.

The theatre was designed by Boston architects Krokyn, Browne and Rosenstein, and the stadium-type auditorium was capable of seating 3000 patrons in an atmosphere faithfully re-creating such notable Chinese structures as the Street Gate of Tsinanfu and the facade of the Wan Shou Tsu Temple.


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