The 1007-seat Newton Theater opened in 1937 on the main commercial strip in Brookland, at a time when the trend in movie-going drifted away from large downtown venues to smaller, neighborhood-based theaters. For many years the Newton Theater has been a social and physical center of Brookland, and its fortunes have often mirrored those of the surrounding community. The Newton’s opening was a boon to the 12th Street commercial district, but such new theaters ultimately suffered from increasing competition themselves, not only from other venues, but from other media such as television. Theaters’ troubles were aggravated by the flight of both population and capital from urban neighborhoods, and in a climate of dropping demand, desegregation contributed to making redundant theaters unsustainable. The Newton closed in the mid-1960s, and its vacancy became not only a symbol but a cause of its neighborhood’s flagging health.
The Newton was designed by prominent theater architect John J. Zink, who is credited with more than 200 movie theater projects in this region. With its glazed yellow brick, streamlined corner portal, and ziggurat sign, the building is a good example of an Art Moderne/Art Deco-style neighborhood theater, one of only a handful left in the city.
DC Inventory: April 27, 2006
National Register: June 26, 2007