Phased Rehabilitation of Little Theatre Debuted

On Thursday of last week, March 17, 2019 we presented our design for a major two-phase rehabilitation and restoration of the historic Little Theatre to a group of patrons inside the theatre itself. The Little Theatre, at 240 East Avenue in Rochester, was built in 1929 was one of approximately 39 “Little Cinemas” established across the country from 1925-1930. These Little Cinemas were the antithesis of the vast Movie Palaces; they rejected mainstream movies from Hollywood and instead exclusively focused on the presentation of independent, foreign, and art films within their intimate and often austere theaters of less than 500 seats. Many of the Little Cinemas occupied renovated or repurposed live theatres, but a small number of them were purpose-built like Rochester’s Little Theatre. From our research conducted as part of an earlier planning project with The Little, we were able to determine that of all of the Little Cinemas across the nation, the only one still in existence and operating as originally intended is The Little Theatre here in Rochester!

Phase 1 of the project, scheduled for completion this year, focuses on a comprehensive rehabilitation of the auditorium which includes replacing all of the existing seating, constructing a full-width stage, replacing and upgrading of all electrical systems, and replacing all existing finishes; and the construction of a small rear addition coordinated with enclosing an existing alleyway to provide a rear entrance and accessible connection to the new stage.

Phase 2 of the project, scheduled for completion in 2019, focuses on a comprehensive rehabilitation of the remainder of the building including: repairing and restoring all exterior components of the primary facade of the building; rehabilitating the basement by updating all mechanical/electrical services and kitchen facilities, reconfiguring storage rooms, bathrooms and lounge spaces, and providing a green room for performers; rehabilitating the first floor by combining the existing central lobby with the two adjacent storefronts to accommodate enlarged concessions and cafe/reception areas, installing an elevator to provide accessibility to all levels of the building, and restoring the current concessions area into an open auditorium lobby/lounge; rehabilitating the second floor by renewing all finishes, providing accessible toilet facilities, reconfiguring office and storage ares, and creating a large green room facility for preformers.

Bero Architecture PLLC is honored to be working with WXXI and The Little Theatre Film Society on their signature historic building that has served as an anchor and cultural icon in Rochester for nearly 90 years. We hope that the community shares in our collective excitement over this major investment into the legacy of “America’s Oldest Art-House Cinema”!

For more information on “The Little Big Picture” campaign and the project refer to the press release on The Little’s website and the news articles covering the project:
+ The Little Theatre Blog
+ The Democrat and Chronicle
+ City Newspaper
+ WXXI News


BELOW ARE SOME SELECTED SLIDES FROM OUR PRESENTATION: