Theater History

Known today as the Ulster Performing Arts Center, the Broadway Theatre opened in 1927 as a movie palace and vaudeville house designed by the famed New York City architect Douglas P. Hall. Purchased in 1947 by the Walter Reade Organization, the Broadway soon became a first-run movie house. A 1953 facelift called for removal of the grand chandelier, replacement of the 1927 marquee and blade sign with an imposing neoclassical portico, and a new name: the Community Theater.

But by 1977, the flight of business and entertainment from downtown centers to suburban malls caused Walter Reade to close the theater, and it was slated for demolition. Fortunately, it was saved by three inspired and dedicated co-partners: Norm Rafalowsky, Helen Newcombe and C. Lincoln Christensen, who also served as the first President of UPAC’s board. Through the efforts of these three and a group of concerned citizens the theater was rescued, purchased, and reopened as the Ulster Performing Arts Center. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 as one of the last great show palaces in New York State .

Sixteen years later, revitalization was mounted to produce a $ 1.7 million interior renovation to ready the theater for its 75th Anniversary in 2002. In 2006, the Bardavon took over management of UPAC and in 2007, the theater officially merged with the Bardavon.

Today, the Ulster Performing Arts Center has emerged once again as a premier performing arts venue of the Hudson Valley, presenting a diverse 10-month season of superb productions, including national and international headliners in music, dance, theater and more. With a 1510-seat capacity, it remains the largest proscenium theater between Manhattan and Albany.

UPAC is governed by the Bardavon 1869 Opera House Board of Directors and a full time staff of 23 plus over 150 volunteers. Since the theater derives only 50% of its income from ticket sales, it must rely upon the support of individuals, businesses, foundations and government to operate.