Decades of Art Deco: The Latchis Theatre Through The Years

You could snap a pic at the Latchis Theatre, throw on a vintage filter, and walk away with an Instagram-worthy shot that could pass for a 1938 throwback. We’re proud of our timeless Art Deco aesthetic, but make no mistake — we’ve come a long way in 80 years. From resilient recoveries to remarkable renovations, The Latchis has not only survived, but thrived against the test of time.

DESIGN, CONSTRUCTION, & GRAND OPENING

The Latchis was built during the height of the Art Deco movement. Greek sculptures, friezes, and hand-painted mythic murals make up some of the Art Deco decor that adorns The Latchis to this day. Since fire was an ever-present danger in the 1930s, architect Steven Haynes used steel, concrete, and glass while laying down the terrazzo floors.

After a two-week delay following the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, the Latchis Memorial Building and its state-of-the-art theatres opened on October 6th in an extravagant gala event. The Main Theatre was built with a balcony, stage, and oversized screen (that’s right, the same trio you see today).

65 YEARS & A NEW GENERATION

The Latchis Theatre remained successful as a business throughout and until the ‘60s. It served as a diversion during the events of World War II, and survived a television boom that came late to Brattleboro — the first TV sets didn’t arrive in town until the mid-1950s. The rise of drive-in theatres, an oil crisis that made the theatre impossible to heat, and multiple fires at other Latchis family theatres contributed to the Latchis Theatre’s decline during the ‘70s. When Spero Latchis took over the building from his father in 1985, the theatre was at its lowest point.

Spero and his future wife, Elizabeth, embarked on a last-ditch project to save the business.  It involved renovating the hotel room by room, and later hallway by hallway, as hotel occupancy grew and profits finally started to rise. Spero Latchis also took on a loan to build a second theatre screen that replaced the old ballroom on the upstairs level.

THE LIGHT IN OUR STARS: 2013 RENOVATIONS

In the late summer of 2013, The Latchis underwent major renovations to restore the theatre to its 1938 glory. The seating in the Main Theatre was replaced and the famed Zodiac ceiling was restored with new balsa wood pieces and an enhanced “starry night” effect that swapped light bulbs with LED lighting to illuminate the heavens above. Ramps in the lobby and elevator upgrades were also included in the project, bringing The Latchis up to code for ADA accessibility guidelines.

The 2013 renovations were substantial, but not just because of the polished aesthetic and improved functionality of The Latchis. The nature of the project left a huge mark — funding for the $550,000 renovations was entirely community-powered through grants and donations.

The Latchis Theatre, a historic Art Deco theatre in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Photo: Wayne Fawbush.

LOOKING AHEAD AND STAYING TRUE

We can’t predict what the future will hold, but some things will never change. As one of only two genuine Art Deco buildings left in Vermont, the Latchis Theatre continues to serve its original purpose: as a place to gather, celebrate, and enjoy the latest in cinema in a building as storied as the feature films it shows.