Old Greenbelt Theatre
The Old Greenbelt Theatre is a single screen movie theatre located in the heart of Greenbelt, Maryland, showing contemporary films in addition to offering a schedule of diverse and community based film programming.
Completed in 1938, the Old Greenbelt Theatre is an iconic building in Greenbelt, MD, a federally planned New-Deal-era community. The core of Old Greenbelt was declared a National Historic District in 1997, with the Theatre a prominent reminder of a bygone era of cinema as well as a living institution whose values of community service and collective responsibility continue to be pertinent and valuable.
The theater, like the supermarket and many other enterprises, initially was run as a cooperative, with members working together to staff the Theater, to make decisions about which films to show, and to determine what concessions to sell. The first screening, which took place on September 21, 1938, was Little Miss Broadway, a musical drama starring Shirley Temple. Admission prices were 30 cents for adults and 15 cents for children, and during this period the theater typically showed four new features per week.
The Theatre is remarkable not only for its original design but also for having survived eras of economic instability without being split into a duplex or a different kind of venue altogether, as has been the fate of so many historic single-screen cinemas. The Old Greenbelt Theatre is both a reminder of a bygone era of cinema exhibition as well as a living institution whose values of community service and collective responsibility are as pertinent and valuable as ever.
Remodeled in 2014-2015 by the City of Greenbelt, today the Theatre has 363 seats, a 40’ CinemaScope screen, two Simplex XL 35mm projectors, a Christie 4K digital projector, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound system. In 2015, Friends of Greenbelt Theatre signed a contract with the City of Greenbelt to operate the Theatre as a non-profit organization.
Old Greenbelt Theatre is a key component of Roosevelt Center, built in 1938 as the heart of Greenbelt, Maryland.
Greenbelt was one of three towns planned in 1935 by Rexford Guy Tugwell, head of the United States Resettlement Administration, under authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. Built on “garden-city” principles, these communities combined progressive values and straightforward functionality. Although often referred to as an Art Deco, the Theatre and Roosevelt Center are more accurately described as Streamlined Moderne, for which the architecture of the Bauhaus served as a model. Replacing the tendency toward ornamentation and color that characterizes much of Art Deco with basic geometric shapes and simple colors, the Theatre exemplifies Streamlined Moderne’s celebration of modern, machine-age design. The Theatre embodies the values of a community that prioritizes safe, healthy, affordable housing for all citizens, with special emphasis placed upon the role of a community in nurturing children.
The Theatre, together with the core of Old Greenbelt, was declared a National Historic District in 1997.
For more information on the history of Greenbelt, visit the Greenbelt Museum.
Old Greenbelt Theatre Staff
Caitlin McGrath – Executive Director
Bria James – House Manager
Eva Yuma – Marketing & Outreach Coordinator
Carol MacAdam – Office Coordinator