Eastman Theatre

The Eastman Theatre was established with the intention of providing music in conjunction with motion pictures in the best possible form attainable and for all of the community to enjoy from childhood to adult. This included not only the acoustics of the theatre but the environment in which these art forms were presented. With this in mind, the Eastman Theatre was erected at the corner of Gibbs Street and East Main Street in Rochester. Absolutely no expense was spared in order to fulfill this goal. As the program for the opening of the facility in 1922 stated:

"In the architectural arrangement and in the furnishing and equipment of the theatre, it is believed that nothing has been omitted to provide artistic appointments and every detail of comfort and convenience, as well as perfection from an operating standpoint." *p.10

Eastman Theatre.

The architects appointed to the task of designing this theatre and music school were Gordon and Kaebler of Rochester with McKim, Mead and White of New York City as the associate architects. The theater extends 367 feet on Gibbs and East Main Street, 180 feet deep and 80 feet tall. The exterior is constructed of gray Indiana limestone on the third and fourth stories with rusticated stonework on the two lower levels. Ionic pilasters and columns of Vermont marble grace the curve of the building over the main entrance. A marquise extends across the entire front.

Eastman School of Music and Eastman Theatre.

Eastman Theatre Facade Close-Up.

Eastman Theatre as seen from Chestnut Street.

The thought and care that created this beautiful exterior only hint at the elaborate design of the interior. 3,358 seats, all of which give the attendees an unobstructed view of the stage, fill the theater's three levels. Each level contained the same furnishings and equipment making even the most inexpensive seat in the house one that was not necessarily inferior to the most expensive.

Eastman Theatre floor plan.

Eastman Theatre Mezzanine Level.

Eastman Theatre floor plan, left, and mezzanine level, above.

The main auditorium is Italian Renaissance in design with a color scheme of blue and gold. The walls are graced by an almost overwhelming array of art.

There are a series of murals on either side of the theater, 8 total, each representing a type of music. On the left side, if one is facing the stage, are paintings by Ezra Winter titled "Festival," "Lyric," "Martial," and "Sylvan Music." Ezra also painted the polychrome ceiling. The right wall, done by Barry Faulkner contains "Religious," "Hunting," "Pastoral," and "Dramatic Music."

Artists eating lunch at Eastman Theatre mural site.

At left is Barry Faulkner and right center is Ezra Winter. These two artists created the murals that grace the north and south walls of the main auditorium.

Barry Faulkner's Murals at Eastman Theatre.

Chandelier, Eastman Theatre.

Above the murals are reliefs by C.P. Jennewein. On top of the reliefs, the cornice is decorated with Arabesque designs of scrolls, shields, and winged sea- horses. A crystal chandelier measuring 14 feet in diameter and 35 feet deep hangs from the center of the shallow dome ceiling.

Other features included such amenities as rest rooms and smoking rooms on all levels, separate entrance and exits to allow for uninterrupted flow of traffic and modern heating and ventilation systems.

One the unique features the Eastman Theatre gave to the community was a specialized lighting system that allowed for movies to be shown without having to completely darken the room. "[This] eliminates the attendant discomfort and moral hazard thereby removing the objection of parents." *p. 4.

There was also a makeshift emergency room complete with hospital equipment and an on-site nurse.

The Eastman Theatre’s beauty has not diminished over the years and great care has been taken to preserve this beauty including a complete renovation in the 1970’s that included new seats, lighting and electrical work as well as air conditioning. The chandelier bulbs were all replaced and the murals were cleaned and restored. The Eastman Theatre is as opulent today as when it opened 81 years ago and should be considered one of Rochester’s finest community assets for both its beauty and purpose.


"The Beauty Around Us," published by the Democrat and Chronicle, 1960.

*Programme Opening of Eastman Theatre, 1922.


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