Grass Roots Movement Breathes New Life into Iconic Theatre
While it was once the crown jewel of the Schine Brothers movie theater empire, the iconic Glove Theatre in Gloversville had become an eyesore for the city by the mid-1990s. In fact, the building was scheduled for demolition in 1995 so that the property it occupied could be turned into a parking lot.
The community’s response? An emphatic, “No way!”
Businesses and residents stepped in, determined to save the historic structure, which was designed by prominent Utica-based architect Linn Kinne. A group banded together and formed a not-for-profit which purchased the property the following year. They rallied local businesses, community groups, and residents and began the gargantuan job of restoring the theater and rebirthing it into an arts hub for Fulton and neighboring counties.
Local veterinarian Henry Cady and his business partner, George Dartch, opened the Glove Theatre in 1914 as a venue for vaudeville shows, opera, orchestral concerts, and other live performances. Not long thereafter, Latvian immigrant brothers J. Myer and Louis Schine purchased the theater in 1920 for vaudeville shows and live theater performances before turning it into a movie house as they built their empire of 160 movie theaters around the country. The Glove Theatre became the Schine Brothers’ flagship, with their headquarters housed in the adjacent building, the former Kasson Opera House. The theater drew Hollywood stars and other prominent performers to Gloversville for movie premieres, including Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert for “Drums Along the Mohawk” in 1939.
With a healthy glove manufacturing industry in the city, the Glove thrived as a movie theater. Unfortunately, when the glove industry faded, so did the theater’s crowds, and it eventually closed in the 1970s.
Two decades later, the community came through to orchestrate a renaissance for this historic building, a once-proud structure that had been woven into the fabric of the nation’s cultural heritage. Volunteers worked weekly on repairs, including sewing the stage curtain, tiling the floor, and plastering. While children rehearsed for summer upgrading lighting, sound equipment, and rigging system so that the theater can host more high-caliber performers. Other future plans include installing new seating and air conditioning and building new dressing rooms.
Work has continued since that time, as have the venue’s offerings, stimulating growth for the downtown area by bringing more traffic to local businesses. “I believe the Glove Theatre has the potential to be the economic catalyst for downtown’s development,” said Bryan E. Taylor, president of the Glove Theatre’s board of directors. He cites marketing studies demonstrating that theater patrons spend $15 to $20 at peripheral businesses when they attend a show. “Even a show with 200 patrons would inject $3,000 to $4,000 of additional revenue into downtown businesses,” he said, noting that this translates to a $156,000 to $208,000 potential aggregate increase in revenue to those businesses when the Glove Theatre implements its plan to host productions each week by the end of 2021. By ramping up events, the board anticipates attracting patrons from surrounding counties as well as Fulton County. The theater’s current capacity is 385 people.
The Glove Theatre’s past events have included Beatles tribute band Hey Jude, screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” classic movie showings, collaborations with the Caroga Arts Collective, sell-out children’s performances such as “Willy Wonka Kids,” and an indoor holiday market for the community. In 2018, NBC’s “The Voice” winner Sawyer Fredericks filmed his first music video at the Glove Theatre and debuted it there with a benefit concert for the Glove Theatre.
Currently, the theater’s board is in the middle of a $100,000, four-phase capital campaign which includes replacing the office roof, renovating the marquee, restoring the interior walls and men’s restroom, and upgrading lighting, sound equipment, and rigging system so that the theater can host more high-caliber performers. Other future plans include installing new seating and air conditioning and building new dressing rooms.
Local businesses are still stepping up with donations and discounted services to help rehabilitate the venue. Matt and Tammy Capano, owners of the True Value store in Gloversville, donated the fluorescent lights for the new marquee. “I went there as a kid to watch movies, and it closed down,” he said. “I was sad. If everybody helps out a little bit, good things can happen for Gloversville,” he said, exemplifying the county’s collaborative community spirit.
Ruby & Quiri, a home furnishings store in Johnstown, donated and installed carpeting for the entryway and concession areas. Gloversville-based Taylor Made, a leading manufacturer for the recreational marine market, donated labor and materials for the new marquee, while Fulton County Electric and Correll Contracting provided deeply discounted services and in-kind donations.
“The positive changes taking place in our downtown have created a palpable momentum that I personally have never before felt in our city,” Taylor said. The board anticipates that this momentum will aid in the completion of the Glove Theatre’s restoration.