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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Beverly’s Cabot Theatre

by Joey Phoenix

The Cabot Theatre in downtown Beverly opened its doors in December of 1920, ushering in a cultural renaissance that has extended down the decades. This year, the Cabot is celebrating its 100 year birthday with a year’s worth of exciting programming and events.

Over the years, the theatre has been a consistent contributor to Beverly’s ongoing cultural legacy as a third space promoting the arts in innovative and dynamic ways. 

“[The Cabot] has always been a place that’s really served the community of Beverly in one way or another,” says Executive Director Casey Soward. “It’s in this great neighborhood, it’s centrally located on the North Shore, we want it to be reflective of the society that’s around it.” 

Because there have been so many contributions (and so many events) in the last 100 years, it’s hard to keep track of it all. Here are 10 things you might not know about the Cabot, and some announcements about what to expect in their centennial year. 

The Theatre was once the Guinness Book World Record holder for the longest-running Magic Show. 

Magician Cesareo Pelaez brought magic to Beverly in 1976 when he bought the theatre and opened “Le Grand David and His Own Spectacular Magic Company.” The show ran every Sunday at 3:00 at the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre for nearly 37 years (1976-2012), and in 1999 was awarded the honorific by the Guinness Book of World Records. 

When it was founded, The Cabot was originally called the Ware Theatre, owned and operated by brothers and former Vaudeville Musicians Harris and Glover Ware. 

Photo Courtesy of Historic Beverly

In its early years, the Ware Theatre was known for its silent films and raucous pre-film Vaudeville performances. The Ware brothers also owned and operated the Larcom theatre just down the street. 

The Jim Carrey Film “The Majestic” Might Have Saved the Cabot from Becoming Condos. 

When Magician Cesareo Pelaez passed away in 2012, the theatre underwent a couple of years of uncertain fate before being sold to philanthropist and investor Henry Bertolon in 2014 and reopening to the public in 2015. The purchase (and the saving of the theatre) is largely to do with the efforts of Chianti Jazz Club owner Rich Marino, who recognized that losing the theatre would be a loss to the community. 

One of Marino’s favorite movies is “The Majestic,” a film that features a small town coming together to restore a theatre. Marino showed a clip from the film to locals he thought had an invested interest in the future of the theatre, and it worked. 

The Cabot hosted its first Drag show with the enhanced movie experience Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert in 2019. 

New York-based queen Miz Diamond Wigfall and her crew of talented queens, kings, and performers took over the Cabot in May of 2019 for a night of Drag fun before, during, and after the enhanced screening of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, presented by Creative Collective and Retonica in partnership with the Cabot.

Miz Diamond Wigfall
Image by Creative Collective

They returned in December of 2019 for a fabulous sold-out second event The Island of Misfit Queers.

“All of the stuff that we do is really to help serve all the populations that are here, which is why we have Drag shows the same week that we host symphony orchestra concerts.”

Casey Soward

Between 1960 and 2012 the Cabot primarily operated as a second-run movie house.

When it wasn’t hosting magic shows, the Cabot Street Cinema Theatre was primarily a second-run movie theatre, showing movies previously run in other movie theaters for discounted prices. When the Cabot reopened in 2015, it continued this legacy but also introduced enhanced movie experiences like the aforementioned Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the annual December event The Polar Express

Image by Creative Collective

“We like to think that we offer something a little bit different. We’re really into making things experiential.” 

Casey Soward

The Cabot is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to contribute to and revitalize the community of downtown Beverly. 

One of The Cabot’s ongoing missions is to revitalize the community of Beverly and provide opportunities to youth in the area. Recently, they’ve partnered with North Shore Recovery High School for an after school program where kids can use the theatre’s space to learn about production and how they can cultivate their art. 

Courtesy of the Cabot Theatre

“Every penny that we collect in admissions, popcorn, and beer all goes back to the charitable mission of the theatre, which is to estore and preserve this beautiful historic asset. It’s why we’re so committed to programming for the community because without the community we’re not here.” 

Casey Soward

The Cabot Theatre is part of the Beverly Arts District.

In 2019, The Cabot, in conjunction with Beyond Walls, launched its mural project which was intended to create a mural installation that reflects The Cabot’s past, present, and future. The two murals which are visible from most of downtown Beverly will be a cherished part of Cabot’s street urban artistic landscape for many years to come. 

Helen Bur paints a mural on the Cabot’s exterior wall.
Image by Creative Collective

While The Cabot is a great place for performance and film, it’s also a great place for music. 

The historic Cabot Theatre is quickly becoming a sought after music venue for bands and artists to play in on their tours to the Northeast. The theatre hosts weekly concerts and featured musicians. Check out their event page to see who’s playing in the coming weeks. 

“This theatre was built for sound. The acoustics are incredible.” 

Casey Soward

The Cabot’s Foyer has a hidden ceiling.

Sometime in the 1970s, the owners of the Cabot installed an air conditioning system to keep the cinema cool during the hot summer months. In doing so, they covered up the beautiful ceiling in the theatre’s entryway. 

Image courtesy of The Cabot Theatre

Luckily for everyone visiting the theatre in 2020, the drop ceiling is going to get taken out, revealing the original ceiling in all of its glory. 

The Cabot is developing a year of great programming to celebrate their 100th birthday. 

In January, the Cabot kicked off their Cabot 100 year with a special event with Patti Austin on the 10th. Their year of celebrations will continue on April 24 with a Roaring Twenties party featuring the silent film Metropolis accompanied by the nation’s premier silent film orchestra, Alloy Orchestra. 

Metropolis was like the Titanic of Silent Films.” 

Stay tuned for more Cabot 100 programming throughout the year, including a gala in the Fall, and penultimate event in the Cabot’s 100th birthday month in December. 


Sources: 


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