Blog Post #22: Our History: Holyoke and St. Petersburg - ACADEMY OF MUSIC

By Debra J’Anthony, Executive Director

In early June of 1927, the Academy board of trustees began negotiations with Mr. C. W. Rackliffe, owner of the Majestic and Suffolk movie houses in Holyoke. Earlier, the Goldstein Brothers Amusement Company had approached the Academy board of trustees and offered them 50% of net earnings to run the theater. However,  “in the interest of the city,” the Academy board felt it advisable to seek an agreement with Rackliffe. By mid-June, the Academy board had struck a deal with Charles W. Rackliffe:

“…Charles W. Rackliffe agrees to take over the conduct of the Academy of Music for one year from July 1, 1927 for the presentation of the better class of the spoken drama and films, (it being understood that not objectionable plays or films will be presented) on a share basis plan, the Academy to receive one-third and the said Rackliffe to receive two-thirds of the net income from all sources. Said Rackliffe agrees to keep the interior of the building and all furnishings and apparatus in good repair.”

The Academy of Music, hence the City of Northampton, was now protected from deficit and by November of 1927 entered an agreement with Mr. Rackliffe to install a new boiler at his expense. The expense of the boiler would be paid to the Academy over a five-year period. The Academy found itself — for the time being — financially solvent.

In the meantime, the Northampton Players, having lost their home stage, went on tour. The Independent, a small publication in St. Petersburg, Florida, noted in their December 17, 1927 issue, under the “Theater Gossip” section:

“Messrs. Gillman and Jones wanted to open the Plaza theater with a stock company as early as possible to get the holiday trade. The first plan was to make up a stock company in New York but that would have meant delay in opening as the company would have to be trained. Mr. Gillman found that the Northampton Players, a successful stock company, were closing in Northampton and were open for engagement. This meant that he could open by the first of the year with a company that has been working together for a long time. So he booked the Northampton players and here they will be called the Plaza Stock Company.”

The Plaza Theater in St. Petersburg opened its doors in 1913 and within a mere forty-four years, it was demolished.

The Academy of Music will celebrate its 122 anniversary this year with a grand re-opening on October 17, 2014, after a two-month renovation of the auditorium and a presentation of the theater’s first commissioned work, Nobody’s Girl, based on real events that took place at the theater in 1940.

Help us raise funds  for our world premiere screwball comedy, Nobody’s Girl, inspired by real events at the theater in the 1940s! Donate by June 30th: Learn more.