Built in 1906 by S.Z. Poli, an Italian immigrant and accomplished wax modeler on his way to becoming the largest theater owner in the world, the Ritz building was first known as “The Poli” and hosted the likes of Harry Houdini, W.C. Fields and Will Rogers. News accounts of the day said a young Buster Keaton worked as a bartender across the street before or after his Poli gigs!
The age of motion pictures emerged, and the Poli was purchased by the Comerford movie theater chain in 1925, which renovated and expanded it into the grand movie palace many may remember from the 1960s and prior, seating 1,800. The existing art deco facade is from the Comerford era. The building continued to change hands. Competition mounted in the area and the theater converted to showing short-run movies. The last, shown in July 2000, was “U-571.”
The current owner bought the building in the early 2000’s and found some forgotten treasures of the past. A gaslit movie projector was cleaned up and incorporated into a display. Ornate brass doors and rails were in excellent shape. Walls were lined with large, hand-painted murals on canvas featuring classical Greek and Asian scenes. New murals, featuring montages of Hollywood-era stars, are now on the walls. The lobby has a long bar overlooking Wyoming Avenue. The original Poli proscenium arch, out of view, can be seen backstage in the shadows. What an incredible treasure, right here in Scranton!
A Dream Come True for The Creative and Performing Arts Academy of NEPA
In August 2016, Sheri and Michael Melcher found their “dream home” for their Creative and Performing Arts Academy program. This vibrant program for kids, teens and adults offers acting classes, private voice and piano lessons, dance classes, a Children’s Choir and dozens of productions throughout the year. CaPAA’s non-profit division, Page To The Stage, provides scholarship for children in need and opportunities for local children to attend our shows and take part in our program. CaPAA’s 9-week summer camp program served 250 kids from NEPA last season! The Melchers have spent the last year getting the space ready by installing state of the art sound and lighting systems as well as new wing curtains and upgrades to the rehearsal studios.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE!
CaPAA has over a hundred events on the calendar for this upcoming season, which is exciting! Their studios and theater will be active with classes and rehearsals 5 nights a week and on the weekends this fall. That means that thousands of parents, friends, grandparents and other supporters will be joyfully attending shows and events to support our CaPAA kids at The Ritz! How exciting for this historic venue to be FULL OF LIFE again!