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Commodore Theater

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1945, John J. Zink. 1987–1989, renovation. 421 High St.
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • Commodore Theater (Virginia Division of Historic Resources)
  • Commodore Theater (Richard Guy Wilson)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

An excellent example of the Streamline Moderne style of the 1940s, the Commodore Theater is downtown Portsmouth's last active motion picture theater. Designed by a Baltimore architect who designed theaters for the Wilder chain, the Commodore has a limestone and brick facade resembling that of Norfolk's Arena Municipal Auditorium, especially in the use of vertically slit windows of glass block. Most of the exterior details survive intact, including the marquee, the illuminated poster cases, and the curving ticket booth. The interior was renovated in the late 1980s to accommodate nightclub-style seating in the orchestra, although theater seats were retained in the balcony. At the same time, side murals depicting local and national progress painted by R. S. Tanek of the Paramount Decorating Company, also of Baltimore, were cleaned, restored, and embellished by artist James Nelson Johnson.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.


What's Nearby


Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Commodore Theater", [Portsmouth, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 445-446.

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