National Register Home Page Learn More about Cumberland Map of City List of sites Itinerary Home

Embassy Theater
Photograph by Kathleen McKenney, courtesy of the City of Cumberland
Cumberland's Embassy Theater is a excellent example of an Art Deco movie theater. The Embassy is typical of community theaters built across the country during the 1930s, a boom period in cinematic history. Thomas Edison introduced motion pictures to Americans in 1896, and by the early 20th century playhouses and vaudeville theaters included them in their lineup of entertainment. Soon, theaters built specifically to show movies opened in nearly every city and town. Giant movie palaces were built in large cities, but far more common were smaller community theaters such as the Embassy. No matter what the size, movie theaters of this period featured elaborate, exotic and modern architectural details which not only helped transport patrons into the fantasy world of the film, but contributed to the whole movie-going experience. Frequently, movie theaters used Art Deco elements in their design . Prevalent from the 1920s to 1940s, the Art Deco movement adapted classical design elements, but drew its inspiration from the mechanization and mass-production of that era. The motion picture theater, a result of technological advances, was particularly well-suited for Art Deco's modern materials, linear edges, geometric forms and zigzags.

The Embassy Theatre, built specifically to exhibit motion pictures, opened in 1931. The Philadelphia firm of Hodgens and Hills designed the theater. It continues to be one of the most notable examples of Art Deco architecture in the Downtown Historic District. Three stories tall, the theater features fluted pilasters and neon finials. The building was converted to retail space in the 1960s, when movie theater attendance across the country was declining as competition from television programming increased. Recently, the Embassy Theatre underwent a major restoration project, and will once again be used as a theater.

The Embassy Theatre is located at 49 Baltimore St., and is a contributing building to the Downtown Cumberland Historic District. It is only open during special events, call 301-722-4692 to arrange a tour.

Preservation in Cumberland Cumberland Architects The C&O canal and B&O Railroad Cumberland History


Itinerary Home | List of Sites | Map | Learn More | Next Site


Comments or Questions