The Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center is a world-class art house cinema based in Washington Square in the historic center of Newport, Rhode Island. The appeal of the films that are screened & the events that are created in this unique public meeting space is to a broad range of the local community and to an important tourist base.
As the only movie house in downtown Newport, The Pickens as it is known locally is a film and event space with a sense of style based on history. The theater shows the best movies available, films that are selected to play to the discriminating taste of the target audience.
The theater presents a mix of first run movies, documentaries and classic films and does not just show films but creates experiences for its clientele. The goal is to make our events memorable and unique in their presentation, approach and/or mix of media. And we try to never take ourselves too seriously as webuild events that inspire, challenge or make the experience just plain fun!
Our objective is also to utilize this historic building as a tool for fundraising for a variety of non-profit causes within our community. As one of America’s oldest theater buildings, the Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center is an important part of the social fabric of the city of Newport.
Recent examples of our special approach & what makes us unique would be:
- The screening of Dr Zhivago with free White Russians on a freezing cold winter night as a fundraiser for a heating system for the building
- The Royal Wedding Breakfast at 5AM April 29th on the big screen attended by 250+ people dressed up or down (pjs & bathrobes)
- A wedding rehearsal dinner event complete with a film festival created by the bride & groom (the stars being their friends & relatives)
- The Great Gatsby Movie Experience as an annual event held on two Sunday mornings in August with the screening of the 1974 film (includes a continental breakfast & tour of Rosecliff Mansion where The Great Gatsby was filmed)
- Screening of Live performances from all over the world. Our Live and encore pre-recorded screenings in HD on our big screen include La Scala Opera House in Milan, the National Theatre in London, Royal Opera House & Royal Ballet in London, the Globe Theatre in London, The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Roundabout Theatre in NYC.
For information on visiting or renting the Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center call our office at 401-846-5474 or contact us.
1834 - Our historic theater building was built in Washington Square in 1834 as the Zion Episcopal Church. One of Newport's first Greek Revival buildings, it was designed by the well known architect Russell Warren and built by William Weeden, a carpenter-builder.
1919 - This beautiful building became a theater in 1919 and is currently celebrating its 93nd year as a theater/178th year as a building. Known as The Strand, it was renamed The Jane Pickens thirty-two years ago by the former owner Joe Jarvis. Joe loved the theater business and we thank him for his dedication and caring for this wonderful Newport landmark for many years.
1974 - Jane Pickens and her sister Patti gave a concert at the dedication and renaming of the theater in 1974.
2004 - The theater was purchased in June of 2004 by The Staabs who have a genuine respect for the history of this wonderful building and continue to enrich the entertainment experience in Newport.
2005 - The Jane Pickens Theater is renamed The Jane Pickens Theater & Event Center as special events become a meaningful part of the experience.
2008 - The Friends of the Jane Pickens is established to enhance the use of the theater for educational purposes.
Jane Pickens (1919-1992)
Jane Pickens was a woman ahead of her times... talented and accomplished she truly did live a charmed existence. She was a very independent woman who lived from 1909 to 1992... though she never would have told you her age. She was passionate about everything in life. Jane was a singer, an actress, a star of the stage, radio and television, a politician, a philanthropist, a mother and a wife.
Jane had quite a life with the Pickens Sisters, and later as a solo. She was the toast of the club-and-radio circuit throughout the 30s and 40s and led a glamorous Park Avenue & Newport social life. Jane was married three times to TJ. Russell Clark (divorced), Stockbroker William Langley (deceased) & Walter Hoving (the head of Tiffany and Bonwit Teller) and had one daughter Marcella.
Her singing career began at a very young age with a very unique talent and drive. Jane was born in Macon, Georgia into a musical family. Her grandfather taught music at a Baptist girls' college and her mother, named for an opera singer thought singing harmony was the best fun there was. Jane went off to Philadelphia at age 14 on a scholarship to Curtis Institute of Music. To quote Jane, "I went off to the Curtis School of Music when I was a mere slip of a girl. Southern girls develop very early. My voice was a full-blown voice when I was that age. I never wanted to be anything but a singer."
So Jane became an accomplished pianist and singer, studied in Paris, and took her master's at Julliard. Her sisters Helen, Grace and later Patti joined her in New York. Their big break came at NBC Radio when NBC needed a sister act to put up against the Boswell Sister on CBS.
The Pickens Sisters sang together only five years. Jane went to work as a single as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic & the Philadelphia Orchestra. She had her own radio program on NBC. She kept up quite a pace with her Saturday Night Party radio show each week and radio appearances 6 nights and 2 afternoons every week. She also went to music school every morning to practice.
Jane appeared in the Ziegfield Follies in 1936 and 1937 with Fannie Brice, Gypsy Rose Lee and Bobby Clark. The songs she preformed as solo were ISLE IN THE WEST INDIES, MIDNIGHT BLUE AND WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC.
In May of 1946 Jane was the song star of CBS "American Melody Hour" at theWaldorf Wedgewood Room. A typical day in her life in her apartment on Park Avenue in New York City was described in one magazine as follows; "Jane would wake whenever (often noon) and ring for her breakfast. She then does her exercises on the living room floor. She dons a pastel-tinted negligee (her work costume) and goes to the piano in the music room where she remains for four to six hours. Jane plans her own programs, makes the arrangements for her songs and accompanies herself on the piano. She even designs about half of her own formal clothes."
On Broadway Jane appeared in Boys and Girls Together in 1940, Regina in 1949 and of course, Music in the Air.
Jane divided her time between Park Avenue and Bellevue Avenue in Newport. She was one of Newport's most gracious hostesses & most sought after-guests.. She supported numerous charities. She lived in Bellevue House on the famed Bellevue Avenue in Newport that she bought in 1963,reburbishing and decorating it herself in vibrant colors & immense good taste. She was one of the chief organizers fro the United Cerebral Palsy Annual telethon and was the recipient of a Distinguished Volunteer Service Award presented by President Lyndon B, Johnson in 1968.
In 1974 she ran as a Republican candidate for Congress from New York's "silk stocking district" against Ed Koch who late became the mayor of NYC. Jane was just plain a hard worker, always up for a challenge.
She lived her retirement years in Bellevue House in Newport, continuing to stay involved in charity work, fundraisers and spending time with her friends such as Doris Duke and Anita O'Day. The Jane Pickens Theater was named after her in 1974 when she and sister Patti gave a dedication concert..
Indeed this was a charmed life...
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