Adjacent to the beautiful square in downtown Woodstock is the 1927 Woodstock Theatre. The theatre's site has been home to a movie theatre since 1911 when the Princess Theatre was built. It was closed in April 1927 to begin construction of the Miller Theatre at the same location. The new theatre opened that November as a 1,000 seat venue complete with vaudeville stage, Bartolo theatre organ and balcony. It was converted to show "talkies" in 1929 and the first talking picture at the theatre was "Syncopation" featuring Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.
Over the years, the theatre operated under several different companies. In 1979 the theatre was split in half, providing two auditoriums, each having 301 seats. The balcony was converted to projection booth, manager's office and storage.
Classic Cinemas acquired the Woodstock Theatre in 1988. Immediate renovations included installing larger screens, Dolby surround stereo sound and decorative aisle lights. In late 1991 a renovated marquee was created to resemble an historic marquee. It now casts a golden glow over the street at night, contributing to the ambiance of Woodstock's historic downtown.
More improvements were made by Classic Cinemas in late 1998. Wider and more comfortable seats were added to both auditoriums, reducing the total number of seats to 462. Other improvements included new carpeting, floor tile and wall decor in the auditoriums as well as lobby décor.
One of the highlights of the theatre's history was the filming of Groundhog Day, a romantic comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. The theatre was used as a film location -- the Alpine in which the character played by Murray attended a movie. Each year the theatre helps the City of Woodstock celebrate Groundhog Day with free screenings of the film. The theatre also is featured on tours of the film's locations. On Sunday, February 4, 2001, a plaque was dedicated to the theatre, honoring it as one of the sites used in the movie.
On May 23, 2002, the Woodstock Theatre opened two additional screens by expanding into the building next door which turned out to have been the Beverly Theatre from 1912. At the same time, the restrooms were completely redone, enlarged and made accessible. The box office now has two ticketing stations. All auditoriums have been equipped with digital sound and HPS-4000 surround sound systems.
On March 12, 2012 all auditoriums were updated with Enhanced 4K Digital Projection and 7.1 Sound.
On Monday, August 20, 2012 demolition started for the expansion of the Woodstock Theatre from 4 screens to 8 screens. The new construction was done in multiple phases and in October of 2013 a new vertical building sign was installed and a ped-way to the rear parking area was opened. What is architecturally significant is the restoration of the ornate original dome from the historic Miller Theatre in the largest auditorium.
According to owner Willis Johnson "The dome restoration is what really made the renovation turn the corner We knew the dome was there. It certainly was a specific focus of the restoration". In May, 2014 construction was completed with the now 8 auditoriums with stadium high-back rocker chairs, 7.1 digital sound and projection throughout. A new spacious lobby with new refreshment area, new restrooms and party rooms. Auditorium 2 is the first Classic Cinemas to feature oversized lounger seating with beverage holders and recliners for the front row.
When visiting the Woodstock Theatre you will find artifacts and remembrances from the original Miller and Princess Theatres place prominently throughout.
As part of the 2015 Ground Hog Day event, Auditorium 1 at the Woodstock Theatre, also known as the Alpine Theatre in the iconic movie, was dedicated to the film’s co-writer and director, Harold Ramis. A plaque is now mounted outside the auditorium entryway and a framed letter written by Ramis, who passed away in early 2014, has been placed in the theatre lobby near an original poster for the film, autographed by script co-write Danny Rubin.
In November 2015 the Woodstock Theatre was issued a plaque for being listed in National Register of Historic Places by The United States Department of the Interior.
On February 2, 2016 the Johnson’s, along with the GM of the Woodstock Theatre, were presented with a Proclamation by the Woodstock City Council with the Mayor of Woodstock. The Proclamation recognized the significant historic contribution by the Johnson family and the economic development opportunities they brought to Woodstock with the renovation of the Woodstock Theatre.
Take a "Virtual Tour" of the Woodstock Theatre (link will open a new browser window).